Larry Omps, owner of funeral home in city, decides to pay for two canines after learning of budget crunch
By Candace Sipos -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Sheriff Robert T. "Bob" Williamson on Tuesday announced the local benefactor who donated two dogs to Frederick County's K-9 unit, which was down from four dogs to none following the death of Max, a Belgian Malinois that died of natural causes in January.
Larry Omps, owner of Omps Funeral Home and Cremation Center in the city, decided to pay for two young canines out of the fund of the All Pets Cremation Center -- a service of the funeral home -- after hearing about the county's budget crunch.
"I wanted to do the small part I can do to keep you all in operation," Omps said.
According to Williamson, when Omps asked him what the department was going to do to purchase new dogs after Max's death, Williamson told him, "'Right now, I'm scratching my head... and [Omps] said, 'What's a dog cost?'"
County officers found Saro, a now 16-month-old Belgian Malinois and Dutch Shepherd mix. During a news conference in late Feburary, Williamson said the benefactor, kept anonymous at that time, purchased Saro for $6,500 and a second dog for $1,000.
When officers were looking for Saro, they also came across Dax, a 3-year-old German Shepherd from Susquehanna County, Pa., where the police department recently cut its K-9 unit because of budget constraints, according to Williamson. That police department had paid $8,000 for Dax, according to Deputy Jonathan Pyles. Pyles is in the middle of an eight-week training program for the dogs along with Deputy Jason Walthen, both of the Frederick County Sheriff's Office.
Following the training program, the officers will seek to have the dogs certified by the American Society of Canine Trainers in Remington, Pyles said. The canines, both imported from Holland, are being trained to be full service patrol dogs specializing in tracking narcotics and apprehension.
Until then, the county is relying on the Winchester Police Department, which has three police dogs.
"In lieu of our dogs being trained, the first call we would make in need of a dog is to Winchester," Williamson said.
Max was Pyles' dog for the nine years the dog served on the county's force. Omps had Max and another county police dog cremated free of charge.
After Saro and Dax are trained, Williamson said he wants the unit to search for two more dogs.
"We do want to get back to our original number of four," he said, noting that many people donated money to the cause back when news first broke about Max's death.
Williamson presented a plaque to Pyles in honor of "Deputy Max, K-9."
"You were our friend, our comrade and our loyal back-up," the plaque states. "... May you always run fast, bite hard and fear nothing."