Sunday, September 24, 2023

Poquoson Police Foundation Raises Funds for K-9 Argo

Argo the Poquoson Police Department’s new K-9 Unit Dog. (Courtesy of the Poquoson Police Department)

POQUOSON — The Poquoson Police Foundation, a non-profit organization, is asking for community donations to help raise funds for Poquoson Police Department’s (PPD) new K-9, Argo.

The 22-month-old Dutch Shepherd has recently gone through thoracic surgery to remove an abscess in his lungs that more than likely would have killed him if not immediately treated.

Argo is the second K-9 to join the PPD after the original K-9, Rena, passed away in October 2020. Rena was a staple at the department and, after being assigned to a regional narcotics task force, helped take millions of dollars in drug money off the streets .

After Rena’s passing, the Poquoson Police Foundation helped raise funds so that the PPD could have another K-9. The foundation, a nonprofit established to support PPD, is run by Lt. James Fox and his wife, along with a small board and a group of volunteers.

Once the funds were raised, PPD went to Ventosa, a kennel out in North Carolina, and chose 18-month-old Argo to join its force.

(Courtesy of the Poquoson Police Department)

“There’s a testing process for these dogs. We went down and spent the whole day testing a bunch of different dogs. Then we picked Argo. I think that was in August of 2021, and then the following week his school started,” said Fox. “So the handler spent 13 weeks with Argo going every day, Monday through Friday, to doggy school basically. That’s where he learns basic obedience and narcotics detection certification. So his certification is through a Virginia Police Work Dog Association, and that’s kind of a state-wide organization that handles law enforcement.”

As a narcotics enforcement dog, Argo’s main job is to help officers detect the odor of illegal substances. His training and certifications were designed so that the K-9 does not alert the officers on other things. This helps Argo focus exclusively on finding narcotic substances, and it helps the officers understand exactly what is found when the K-9 alerts.

At the end of a thirteen week training, there is a blind party that visits the police department and examines what Argo can do. They determine if the K-9 is certified or if he’s not. The process typically takes an entire day to certify one dog.

What Happened?

Argo sniffs for narcotics during a training session. (Courtesy of the Poquoson Police Department)

“So on Thursday, November 4th, our dog graduated from the class. Argo took his test and passed his certification,” said Fox. “Then he became ill on the 5th. We didn’t even work a complete day with him before he became extremely ill. We went to three different vets, trying to save the poor guy.”

Fox said that the police department knew something was wrong when Argo became lethargic. According to Fox, the K-9 is typically very hyper for a work dog. So when Argo’s handler saw the K-9 sitting around not wanting to do anything he knew something was wrong.

“It became hard for him to breathe. The handler noticed these changes and took him to a vet. The handler was actually out of town with Argo at the time. So it was not our regular vet who was up in northern Virginia,” said Fox. “The vet kind of passed it off to another vet who was a specialist and found that Argo had an Absecc in his lungs. It had become severely infected and he was almost in sepsis. They didn’t want to use the sepsis word yet, but he was almost there. That required immediate surgery and drains being put into his lungs for all the fluid build-up from infection.”

Argo was in the vet for about eleven days. Fox said that the department couldn’t transport Argo back to Poquoson because he wouldn’t survive the trip. The K-9 stayed up in Northern Virginia and ended up at the South Paws Animal Emergency Center where the veterinarians performed the surgery. Argo was then cleared to come home back to Poquoson at the beginning of last week.

“He’s slowly getting back to normal. He still has staples holding his skin together so he’s going to require another vet visit to get the staples out and to make sure everything is healing upright,” said Fox. “When we were evaluating his situation one of the largest things for any police department is saying ‘okay, is this dog still going to be a police dog.’ The surgeon that we were speaking to assured us that for the limited purposes of narcotics enforcement this dog will still be fully functional after recovery. He will still be able to smell and detect narcotics just as well as he could before. If he were a patrol dog, his service life probably would’ve been ended. probably due to the extensive nature of any kind of thoracic surgery.”

How Can The Community Help?

K-9 Police badges are being sold to help raise money for Argo’s medical bills and expenses. (Courtesy of Poquoson Police Department)

The Poquoson Police Foundation is currently selling K-9 police patches for $10 each in an effort to help raise money for Argo’s medical bills.

“We have a goal of roughly $20,000 that we would like to raise. We know the bill has exceeded $25,000 right now which is going to deplete our K-9 fund both through the city and through the foundation. The foundation purchased the dog, purchased all the equipment for the dog, and we donated all that to the city. The city has a small line in their budget to maintain the dog for food and vet bills and stuff like that. We’re hoping to raise money to replenish the funds and we’re hoping to keep that program going.”

Locals who wish to donate to the foundation can do so through the PayPal link on The Poquoson Police Foundation’s website.

The foundation is also looking for local businesses that want to partner up and help with fundraising. If any businesses are interested they can contact the Poquoson Police Foundation through their Facebook page or through their website.

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