Cheryl Timmons ripped off the tarp to reveal the handsome monument underneath:
A gray granite bust of a German shepherd perched atop a jet-black marble base.
“Isn’t it amazing?” said Timmons, president and co-founder of the Friends of the Anaheim Police K9 Association, a non-profit that pays for medical care for police canines after they retire – and one of two organizations that raised the money for the statue.
“It looks like he’s guarding the whole place,” Timmons said.
That “place” is the APD East Station on E. Santa Ana Canyon Road, where the $8,000 memorial — entirely paid for by private donations — stands just to the left of the entrance to the station.
In a separate campaign led by Councilwoman Kris Murray, two other K9 monuments are set to be unveiled in the coming months in two new dog parks in the city.
Standing more than 6 feet tall, the Police Service Dog Memorial outside the APD East Station is etched with the names of the 27 APD service dogs that have honorably served the agency and the community, from Cliff (1981-87) to Bruno, Cisko and Popeye, who all retired in 2014.
There is room on the memorial for 150 years of service by APD K9s, Chief Raul Quezada noted.
“This is a huge event for us,” Quezada said.
The chief noted that the APD’s K9 unit formed in 1981 with three canine teams.
Today, there are six.
“This memorial is a celebration of service for all past and present Anaheim K9 service dogs,” Quezada said.
One side of the four-paneled memorial features the poem “Guardians of the Night,” written in honor of military and police dogs by an anonymous author.
The front of the memorial has an etching of an APD badge and the words, “Remembering those who loyally served the citizens of Anaheim.” Also named on the front are the two organizations that raised money for the statue: Timmons’ nonprofit and the Anaheim Police Officers’ Honorary Association.
“These dogs are, in the truest sense, dedicated partners to our officers,” said Ed Thaete, chairman of the Anaheim Police Officers’ Honorary Association and a former motor officer who served 31 years with the APD.
“They are fearless and obey their commands without giving a second thought,” Thaete said. “They have saved countless hours in building searches and the apprehension of violent suspects.”
The officer who ran the APD’s first K9 unit, then-Lt. and future APD Chief Jimmy Kennedy, attended the Oct. 16 unveiling. Also in attendance at Friday’s brief ceremony were former APD K9 officers dating back to the 1980s.
Retired APD Sgt. Chuck Knight was a K9 officer from 1987-’92. His canine partner, Dingo, was one of the first dogs used by the SWAT team.
“I think this is awesome,” Knight said. “Being around in the early days, K9s weren’t as accepted by the department. At that point, (command staff) didn’t understand how much time these dogs would save, say, in searching a big warehouse for drugs.
“We had to prove we were able to be an asset and not a liability.”
APD K9 officers have proven countless times how valuable they are — perhaps none more so than Bruno, who is credited with saving his human partners’ lives when he took a bullet in 2014 and was forced into early retirement.
Although talk about an APD police service dog memorial had been kicked around for years, the shooting and recovery of Bruno — which made international headlines — kick-started efforts to get the Police Service Dog Memorial built.
While efforts by Friends of the Anaheim Police K9 Association and the Anaheim Police Officers’ Honorary Association were going on, Councilmember Murray was also working with Cheryl Timmons and the board of Friends of the Anaheim K9 Association and a broad group of community members including Leslie Swan of Anaheim Hills Buzz, and leaders of the Anaheim Neighborhood Association on a private fundraising effort to have two life-size K9 monuments established at the city’s new dog parks.
The K9 monuments are expected to be unveiled in the coming months at La Palma Dog Park this November and Olive Hills Dog Park, which will open next Spring, Murray said.
“Having these memorials in a community setting will be a great way for children, families and the public to be reminded daily of these amazing K9 officers who put their lives on the line every day to serve our city,” Murray said.
Moving forward, every retired APD service dog will have his name added to the Police Service Dog Memorial outside the APD East Station, Quezada said.
There are four living retired APD K9s — Bruno, Cisko, Recon and Tago — and six active K9s: Halo (handler RJ Young), Ivan (Brian Bonczkiewicz), Guenther (Brett Klevos), Kreiger (Andy Miller), Jager (Matt Sutter), and Ares (Robert Lopez).
“It’s a big job,” said Sgt. Ray Drabek, who runs the APD’s K9 unit. “Each handler has an incredible amount of responsibility. They aren’t just responsible for themselves, but for the animals.
“This memorial is a great way to honor these guys and the animals,” Drabek added. “The amount of work it takes to keep the dogs ready to be deployed requires a huge commitment level, and the officers are on call 24/7.”
Officer Brian Leist, a K9 officer with his partner Kaiser from 2001-’08, has been on the board of directors of Friends of the Anaheim Police K9 Association since 2004.
“This monument doesn’t happen without relationships with the community,” Leist said. “That’s how this entire thing got done. Somebody had an idea, they came forward, and that’s what drove the entire thing.”
The La Palma Dog Park ceremony will occur in mid-November and Olive Hills Dog Park ceremony will occur when that park opens in spring 2016, Councilwoman Murray said.
The life-size bronze K9 statues for each park were designed by world-renown sculptor Susan Bahary and were privately funded by a citywide, community-based fundraising effort. They have been completed and are waiting to be installed. The unveiling of these K9 monuments at each park will include ceremonies for the entire Anaheim community to attend and honor the APD and its K9 unit, she said.
Knight said the Police Service Dog Memorial outside the Anaheim PD East Station, as well as the statues coming soon to the two new dog parks, is a great way to honor the great service these dogs have provided to the city.
“It’s really nice the community has embraced K9s and understands that they are a great tool,” Knight said. “I always say being a K9 officer was the best job I ever had.”