Friends and trainers honor working dogs
By LAVINIA DeCASTRO • Courier-Post Staff
Sirius ran into the World Trade Center’s Tower 1 on Sept. 11, 2001, and never came out.
Grace searched for people in the ruins left behind by hurricanes Ike, Hannah and Gustav.
Gloucester Township Patrolman Mark Pickard shakes hands Saturday with Dave Hahn of Pitman. Hahn’s German shepherd, Schultz, was one of the guests of honor.
Elias apprehended a burglar inside a service station and helped keep $75,000 worth of drugs off the streets.
All three are service dogs.
All three were among the first 20 canines to be inducted in the area’s first wall of fame dedicated to service dogs during a ceremony on Saturday in Gloucester Township.
“Our canine heroes have a home now in Gloucester Township,” Mayor Cindy Rau-Hatton said.
The ceremony, held at Veteran’s Park, took place during the annual Gloucester Township day.
This is the fourth consecutive year in which service dogs were honored in the township, but the first time a wall of fame was dedicated to them.
“Every year, it gets larger and larger and we include more dogs,” said Lillian Kline, president and founder of Our K9 Heroes, the nonprofit organization that sponsored the event.
The wall of fame with the names of the first inductees will be located inside the municipal building, Kline said.
“They’re all dogs that we have honored in the past,” Kline said.
Lillian Kline of Pine Hill and her German shepherd, Hope, take part in a procession honoring working dogs. Kline is president and founder of Our K9 Heroes, which sponsored Saturday’s event in Gloucester Township.
Inductees include dogs from New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Kline said. Among them were two Philadelphia Police Department dogs, four Camden County Department of Corrections dogs, an Evesham Township Police Department dog, two Gloucester Township Police Department dogs and various therapy and mobility assistance dogs, including Kline’s own dog Hope.
Kline, who suffers from cerebral palsy and arthritis, has had six service dogs.
The idea to honor her canine companions came after one of her dogs, Tara, was attacked.
“They were a bunch of young punks,” Kline said of the attackers. “They wanted to see if she would bite.”
After the 1994 incident, Tara was too traumatized to return to work, but Kline kept her until she died at the age of 12.
“After her assault, I made a promise to her that I would honor those who were like her,” Kline said.
Her work resulted in the first ceremony of its kind — dedicated to all working dogs, not those those that performed extraordinary deeds.
“This is very nice, to honor the police dogs and the service dogs, especially the service dogs,” said Bobbie Snyder of Williamstown, who has three yellow Labradors trained to perform various duties. “A lot of people would be lost without their service dogs.”
Kline also received an award for the time and effort to recognize these often neglected canine heroes.
“This is a woman who has not let her disability keep her from giving back to the community,” Councilwoman Crystal Evans said.
Reach Lavinia DeCastro at (856) 486-2652 or firstname.lastname@example.org