For the better part of a year, the Arroyo Grande Police Department has been without one of its most important officers: a furry-faced K-9 named Gregor.
Gregor, a 9-year-old black German shepherd, was retired last year because of an autoimmune disease that affected his joints and made it difficult for him to perform his duties.
Now, the department is attempting to raise money for a replacement K-9: Tig (short for Tigger), a 15-month-old German shepherd, who has been training with Officer Jeff Corral.
Being trained as a K-9 handler “was always one of my top goals,” Corral said. “I’ve never been more excited.”
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Corral has in the past trained as an “agitator” — the person K-9s bite during training to ensure the handler can retain control of the dog during an incident. Through his experiences, Corral said he has had a front-row seat for how close handlers and their dogs become, and he looks forward to having that same relationship with Tig.
“Tig’s a hyper, fun-loving dog,” he said, noting that he was previously owned by a family on the East Coast before entering training. “We’re just building our bond right now.”
Tig’s namesake may be more at home in the Hundred Acre Wood, but in Arroyo Grande, the energetic pup will be tackling much harder cases than missing honeypots.
According to Corral, once fully trained, Tig will be a valuable member of the Arroyo Grande Police Department.
“K-9s are huge for law enforcement,” he said. “As much as we love them, bring them home and treat them like family, they are a tool for law enforcement.”
Dogs and their handlers are required to go through 200 hours of training and a test before becoming certified. Corral said he anticipates he and Tig will have completed that within the next two to three months.
Police dogs don’t come cheap, though. The department expects the cost of buying Tig, training Corral and the dog as a team and providing necessary medical and other support for Tig will cost around $30,000. To help fund that, the department has started a GoFund Me page to raise some of the money.
“Anything we can get is extremely helpful,” Corral said. “We appreciate all the community support we have had so far.”
The campaign has raised $3,195 of its final goal as of Wednesday.
Corral said that despite lingering public concerns stemming from the Dec. 13 attack of a police-trained Belgian Malinois that killed a Grover Beach man, the Arroyo Grande department has a long history with K-9 officers and no incidents.
“We have policies and procedures in place to try to prevent any situations,” he said. “These dogs are family as well, and we are here to use them in the correct ways. We’re going to, of course, keep safety as a top priority.”