New police dog park in Calgary honours heroes

Calgarians have a new place to connect with some members of the city’s police force who have provided heroic service since 1960.

The Calgary Police Canine Park was officially opened on Wednesday, alongside the YouthLink Calgary Police Interpretive Centre, adjacent to the Calgary Police Service (CPS) headquarters in the city’s northeast.

“Today’s a really special day,” CPS Canine Unit Sgt. Jim Gourley said.

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The ceremony included awarding to badges to three new police dogs: Dag, Quyk and Nero.

“For a dog to have a badge, it’s a small symbol to recognize that they are heroes,” Gourley said.

The ceremony was particularly significant for two retired dog handlers who attended.

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“I feel very proud and very emotional,” retired CPS Const. Herb Craig said.

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Craig was especially proud of a plaque honouring his old partner Pharoah, a police dog who died in the line of duty in 1969.

“He was just an awesome partner,” Craig said.

The event also featured the unveiling of two new statues celebrating police dogs.

“The public and young people can come here and actually see the history of the canine unit,” CPS Chief Mark Neufeld said. “But then also to be able to learn about what these brave officers and these canines are doing in the city, I think it’s a win-win, all the way around.”

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The statues and commemorative plaques, along with regular visits by police dogs and their handlers, will be a new highlight for the 30,000 Calgary kids who visit YouthLink each year.

“Children love to see the dogs.” YouthLink executive director Carlee Bojarski said.

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“The uniform sometimes might be scary to a child, especially from another country — they don’t trust police. A dog can instantly take away that barrier.”

Retired CPS dog handler Garth Blais knows all about the canine connection.

“It just hit the heart again,” Blais said, while looking at the plaque honouring his former canine partner Sirk, who lost his life while protecting Calgarians in 1989.

“These dogs, they live with us, they’re family members,” Blais said. “And they do protect us, they save our lives.”

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