Fortunately the K-9 dogs associated with the Lebanon Police Department and throughout the Twin State region have a pair of guardian angels watching over them.
Dr. Daniel Kelly and his wife Jodi founded Small Animal Veterinary Emergency Services (S.A.V.E.S) in Lebanon, one of a very few 24-hour veterinary hospitals in New England. And along with the general public they serve a special clientele, K-9 dogs that hold full status as police officers.
SAVES offers emergency and routine medical exams to police K-9 units on a 24/7 basis, with a goal of offering that service at no cost to taxpayers.
“The cost factor of caring for these K-9 units is always a consideration for tight budgets, so we have donated as much of our time and service as possible,” Jodi Kelly explained. “We rely on donations as well, and to that end Curt Jaques, owner of West Lebanon Feed & Supply, has been a huge factor. He has offered so many fundraising efforts for S.A.V.E.S that have made a huge difference. My husband and I have a goal that eventually all expenses involved will be turned back to the police departments’ budgets.”
The Kellys launched the Stoneclliff Animal Hospital in Bradford, Vt., back in 1990 and opened their doors and hearts to all the Vermont State Police and their four-legged officers. Today at S.A.V.E.S, which opened in 2009 to bring 24-hour critical veterinary care to the Upper Valley region, they work with K-9 units from any police department, regardless of location.Lt. Kevin Isham of the Lebanon Police Department directs the K-9 program and notes that they have two units in action on a regular basis.
“Those K-9 Units are an integral part of our total arsenal for fighting crime,” Isham noted. “Especially in the war on drugs and tracking lost people. You can’t place a value on what they mean to us.”
Lebanon features two of the most renowned K-9 teams in New England: Senior Officers Jonathan Tracy with his dog Briggs, and Jeremy Perkins with his constant companion Max.
Perkins and Max were awarded the prestigious Vermont Police K-9 Patrol Team of the Year award by the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council in 2011 and 2013. Officer Perkins explained the Vermont connection.
“All K-9 teams in this area are trained at the Vermont Police Academy located in Pittsford, Vermont. They have a complete training center there and offer training on a continuing basis for various certifications. Here in Lebanon we are very fortunate to have two K-9 teams, and we are the only units from New Hampshire that Vermont will work with. This community has been very supportive allowing us to have two K-9 teams when many towns and cities are struggling to get one,” Perkins said.
“We train together as much as possible,” Perkins noted. “We are on patrol together at times to reinforce other officers, and the dogs are especially critical when securing a building where a crime suspect may be hiding. We can send them into the building or have them guard the perimeter. However, the majority of the time we patrol separately.”
Perkins, age 43, is a Maryland native who has been with the Lebanon Police Department for nine years. Max is an eight-year-old Belgian Malinois, one of four breeds of Belgian shepherds that have been developed by the military and law enforcement because of their special traits.
“The Malinois is a unique breed,” Perkins said. “They are smaller than a German shepherd. Max weighs about 65 pounds, while Briggs checks in around 95 pounds. The small size is made up for by their intelligence, quickness, energy, and enthusiasm. They are becoming more in demand for K-9 duties.”
Perkins explained in detail how inseparable the pair have become. Soul mates if you will. The duo not only work long hours together, they go home together when the shift has been completed.
“Max has lived with my family since I acquired him seven years ago and has become a family member. Over the years he has played with the kids and been just like any family pet. I bathe Max, feed him, groom him and make sure he gets exercise. Being a K-9 is very hard on a dog, both physically and mentally. We have forged quite a bond. I have no doubt in my mind that Max always has my back in any situation,” Perkins said.