Couple raises money to protect canine Officer Marek

By Stephen Betts | Aug 21, 2019
Photo by: Stephen Betts Marek dons his new ballistic vest with the help of his handler, Knox County Deputy Tim Davis.

Rockland — When the Knox County Sheriff's Office's newest member formally goes on patrol next month, he will have potentially life-saving equipment, thanks to a couple from Oxford.

Nicole and Wayne Robichaud donated Wednesday, Aug. 21, a ballistic vest, first-aid kit, and an oxygen tank and mask for Knox County's newest canine officer -- Marek.

Deputy Tim Davis, Marek's handler, said he expects Marek to become certified next month to go on patrols.

And when does go on patrol, he will have the equipment donated by the Robichauds through their organization, Maine K9 Vests. The couple started the organization about 10 years ago.

Ten police dogs in Maine received vests and related equipment last year.

"They are out there protecting us, our kids," Wayne Robichaud said. "Plus, I love dogs. I have seven."

The couple raise money through Facebook posts, donation cans in stores, and more recently through events. The Robichauds said they plan to attend the First Annual All New K9 Carnival being put on by the Pope Memorial Humane Society Saturday, Sept. 28, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Rockland Harbor Park.

Marek is a 21-month-old German shepherd.

Knox County had been without a police canine since Brady, a black Labrador, left in October 2017 to join a police department in Idaho.

Marek's main mission will be to track people -- suspects or missing individuals. The dog's background is different from that of most police canines, Davis said in a May interview. Marek started his life as a household pet with no police work planned. But the German shepherd clearly needed something to do, Davis said, and the initial owners returned Marek to his breeder.

Knox County sent out notices to breeders across the state informing them that it was interested in getting a new K-9 officer. Marek was at a kennel in Weld operated by Lt. David Rackliffe of the Franklin County Sheriff's Office, who also serves as a breeder and trainer of police dogs.

In January, the Knox County Commission gave its approval for the purchase of Marek to serve as a K-9 officer. The dog lives with Davis and his family, but is owned by Knox County and is commissioned as a deputy.

The cost of a dog is a few thousand dollars, but with training and associated costs, the K-9 program costs about $10,000.

The greatest demand and need for a K-9 officer is for use as a tracker, Chief Deputy Patrick Polky said in May. Marek can get a scent from a car seat, for instance, and pursue a suspect who has fled a vehicle. Marek can also track people if officers know where a person was and no one else has walked along the same path.

Marek has undergone training with his handler since January. The K-9 officer has been certified by the United States Police Canine Association. That certification is based on skills acquired by the dog. Marek will also earn his state certification once he logs more hours of training.

Marek is following in his family's paw prints. His grandfather, a 10-year-old, also serves as a K-9 officer.

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