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Hampton Fire Department K9 Taylor’s tail wagged slightly as she held still for a training demonstration Tuesday morning, allowing police officers to approach her one by one to feel for a pulse.
Ten-year-old Taylor is trained to sniff fire scenes for accelerants, but her job Tuesday morning was different: Provide officers with hands-on training to help save the lives of local police dogs.
While in the field, dogs can suffer injuries including cut paws, chest punctures from sticks, heat stroke and gun wounds — and having the right equipment on hand can mean the difference between life and death.
To ensure their safety, York County business owner and Williamsburg resident Patricia Settimo donated $2,750 worth of medical supplies and medical kits to the department in memory of her late father, a former police officer.
On Tuesday morning, 11 police K9s – 10 from Hampton and one from the Gloucester Sheriff’s Office – came together with their handlers for a K9 emergency medical training using Settimo’s donated kits.
The medical kits, called “buddy bags,” cost about $250 each and contain life-saving equipment, including bandages, an oxygen mask, tourniquets, and other medical supplies. The medical kits are made by Michigan-based nonprofit K9 Defender Fund. The bags were first made for military dogs.
“It’ll potentially save a dog’s life,” Hampton K9 Master Trainer Tom Hendrickson said. “Citizens don’t want to see one of the dogs get hurt and die unnecessarily. These bags will potentially save them in the field. Hopefully we’ll never have to use them, but they’re nice to have in case something pops up.”
For Settimo, who owns an Arbys in York County and two Firehouse Subs locations in Hampton and Suffolk, buying the buddy bags for law enforcement dogs is deeply personal.
Settimo’s father, Det. Lt. Richard J. Scott, worked at the Roseville Police Department in Michigan for 35 years, Settimo said. When he died five years ago, Settimo’s sister, Sharon, started buying bullet- and stab-protective vests for police dogs. Following in her sister’s footsteps, Settimo has “vested” a King & Queen County drug dog named Tyson and a Roseville Police dog named Corporal, she said.
All 11 buddy bags donated Tuesday were embroidered with the phrase “In memory of Det. Lt. Richard J. Scott.”
“My dad would be extremely proud,” Settimo said. “Of all things to do for him in his memory, I know this is what he would want.”
Settimo said her family took in many strays when she was a child and her father had a strong love for animals.
During the training Tuesday, veterinarian Carolyn Kutzer of Freed Veterinary Hospital demonstrated how to use certain equipment, explained what supplies should be used in certain situations and showed officers how to find a dog’s pulse.
“You guys have so many things in here that are good to have,” Kutzer said to officers. “This [medical kit] is for you to use when something happens, so then you can get the dogs in to us.”
Kutzer told officers she planned to add a few items to the bags, including apomorphine tablets to induce vomiting and bottles of charcoal to combat poisoning.
The ultimate goal is to stabilize an injured dog and take them to a veterinarian, but having the proper medical supplies readily available can increase a K9’s chances of survival, Hendrickson said.
“They’re the ones in front – they lead their handlers,” Hendrickson said. “Whatever hazards are there, the dog reaches them first.”
Only one Hampton police dog, K9 Sarge, has died in the line of duty. Sarge died in 1980 from gunshot wounds, Hendrickson said. Since then, the department has seen some injuries and dogs overheating, but no fatalities, he added.
Now, Settimo is working to buy doses of Narcan for the Hampton K9’s, which will be carried by their handlers while on the job. The potentially life-saving drug temporarily reverses effects of an overdose, according to the drug’s website. Right now, the supervisor on-shift carries a dose of Narcan for the entire shift, she said.
“The dogs can come out with drugs on their bodies or paws, then they lick it later,” Settimo said. “It only makes sense to have Narcan also available for the dogs.”
Settimo said being a local business owner helps her in her quest to protect law enforcement.
“I have been blessed that I do have the means to help protect our police dogs,” said Settimo. “Taking care of our first responders is a no-brainer for me.”
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