Stow -- What seemed like a mountain climb for the city to purchase a new police K-9 has turned into a stroll up a hill, thanks in large part to a local dentist.

Last fall, after Dr. Kevin Artl donated $2,000 to the city's K-9 fund, he subsequently donated another $10,000. He told City Council Jan. 26 that he will also purchase a new ballistic vest for the dog.

"I hope the K-9s will continue to mingle with the citizens of the city to make awareness of this great program," Artl told Council. "Because all in all, these K-9s can do what people can't do. they are an important part of the Stow Police Department."

Police Chief Jeff Film told Council, "When we weren't meeting our goals, Dr. Artl came forward and donated the rest of the money needed for a total of $12,000 toward the purchase of a new K-9."

Council Vice President Matt Riehl said Artl's donation is an example of citizens working to make their communities better.

"Often times, politicians think they're the ones who go out and make a difference in the community; you know, casting votes and things like that," said Riehl. "But it's really leaders like Kevin Artl who see a problem and they come forward on their own volition and they solve it for us."

Money enough for new K-9

In mid-2013, the city went from two to three police K-9s for the first time, one for each shift, when it added Spectrum. The other two dogs were Colt and Nero. Nero retired in October 2013, dying of cancer the following January, and was replaced by Mingo.

But the number suddenly dropped to two again this past October when Colt, the department's oldest K-9 at 8, died six days after first showing signs of illness and two days after being diagnosed with leukemia. Colt was the first of the city's police dogs to die while on active duty since the program began in 1994 with Ranger.

The K-9 fund is money that comes from donations that supply the needs of the program, including food, equipment and medical care for the dogs, who live with their handlers. Colt was the first Stow police dog to be purchased entirely with donations.

But when Colt died, the fund was low, down to only about $2,000, with some of that owed for veterinarian bills.

Not long after, the police department's need came to the attention of Artl.

Police Sgt. Steve Miller, who was Colt's handler and still serves as the K-9 program's supervisor, told Council Jan. 26 that not long after Artl made his initial donation, he was contacted by police dispatch to contact Artl.

"At that point, I called and spoke to him," said Miller. "I was really appreciative. He said, 'Hey, I want to give you another $10,000.'"

Miller said he then went to Artl's Graham Road office and "he gave me another check, for $10,000."

"We just want to thank him for making that donation," said Miller.

Stow Finance Director John Baranek told the Stow Sentry on Jan. 30 that as of the end of 2016, the K-9 fund had $22,525 in it from donations, including the two made by Artl. Since then, it had received two additional donations totaling $1,100.

In a Feb. 2 email to the Stow Sentry, Film said the cost of a new dog, including training and some equipment, is estimated to cost $13,000 to $15,000. A new ballistic vest, he said, will cost $800 to $900, "depending on the manufacturer."

"We have several officers who have put in for the position of K-9 Handler," wrote Film. "We are currently allowing them to go to the monthly K-9 training with our other officers so they can get firsthand experience as to what is expected of them. The selection of the K-9 and the training is tentatively scheduled for May."

He added that, "We have far exceeded our goals in raising the funds for the new K-9/TrainingWe are very excited to get our officer off to training, and expect him to be in full service in June."

Council members praise Artl

During the Jan. 26 Council meeting, Councilor John Pribonic called Artl a "great leader."

"Thank you very much because residents look at you as a very well respected person in our community and I appreciate what you have done," he said.

Other Council members echoed Riehl.

"It takes a lot of people to help the city in everything that we do," said Councilor Jim Costello. "It's not the politicians who do all of it. It's the people in the city and it's people like you that step forward and really help us and we greatly appreciate it."

Councilor Brian Lowdermilk said, "It takes people stepping up and we appreciate you stepping up."

Artl said, "These dogs are ready any time of the day," and he credited the "training and dedication" of the handlers for the success of the program.

"I'm glad I was in a position to do this for the city," he said.

Riehl concluded by saying that the police K-9 program is something worth having.

"The dogs are very important in the community, both in solving crime, conducting searches, and in being a valuable policing tool, community policing, being out and about, developing good relationships with our officers," said Riehl.

Email: jsaunders@recordpub.com

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