If you saw a police vehicle parked outside a neighbourhood store would you be curious? Most of us would raise an eyebrow and wonder ‘What’s going on there?’
If the store happened to be the Pet Valu location at 3326 Portage Ave., you can be sure that the recent police presence was for all the right reasons.
Over the course of a week in July, ending with a meet-and-greet with officers and service dogs, the pet shop raised more than $1,060 in support of the Winnipeg Police Service’s K9 Unit. The funds will go toward ballistic vests and care for retired service dogs (go to www.winnipegpolicek9.ca under the DONATE tab for more details).
The local Pet Valu outlet is owned by Westwood resident Pam Shelby. She says the store holds an annual fundraising drive in March and has seasonal themes including Halloween and Pictures with Santa. The K9 campaign was an unscheduled effort.
"It was really an impromptu thing" Shelby says. "I read an article about the construction of the new K9 facility and decided that it would be great for us to support Winnipeg service dogs".
Staff set up a donation jar at the cash register and invited customers to chip in with whatever they could.
"We were astounded with the result! We try not to ask too much of our customers, but when we mentioned we were collecting for the K9 Unit, people dug into their wallets and handed over far more than spare change," Shelby says.
She notes that the meet-and-greet was a big part of the endeavour’s success. Const. Jay Jaskiewicz and police service dog Diesel were at the store July 21 along with Const. Scott Moirer and pup-recruit Bailey.
"The dogs and their handlers were really impressive. Diesel was alert and on-duty; Bailey was playful and interactive with staff and customers," Shelby says.
Jaskiewicz and Diesel returned to the store last week for a cheque presentation. As an active general purpose/narcotics police dog, Diesel already has a ballistic vest, a $3,000 piece of protective equipment purchased through previous donations.
Shelby says she’d like to do another fundraiser, with the aim of purchasing a ballistic vest for a pup recruit.
Jaskiewicz says he and his fellow handlers are grateful for the generosity of Westwood pet-lovers and looks forward to future events.
If you would like to make a contribution, or to learn more about the K9 Unit, follow the links on the Winnipeg Police Service’s K9 website.
Sharon Pfeifer is a community correspondent for Westwood. You can contact her at email@example.com.