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Policeman's best friend

Thanks to a resident's generous donation, the Woodburn Police Department has a new officer in town: a K-9 named Bart


by: LINDSAY KEEFER - Officer Zach Williams and his new partner, K-9 Bart.There’s a new officer on duty with the Woodburn Police Department — and this one has a furry face and snout.

Bart, a wide-eyed Belgian Malinois and certified K-9 unit, joined the team last week. The pooch hit the ground running and has already been on several calls in his first week, including a bank robbery that garnered wide media attention.

“He’s been successful,” said Bart’s handler, Officer Zach Williams. “It’s nice to see that right out of the gate.”

Williams, who just completed a six-week, multi-agency course with Bart to get him by: LINDSAY KEEFER - Bart, the K-9 Belgian Malinois, jumps up to grab onto a toy, held by his handler, Officer Zach Williams. The duo took a moment to play before going out on patrol Friday. Williams has pointed out that the 20-month-old K-9 is more playful than his predecessor, Max, who died Jan. 31 from an illness.certified, has been handling police dogs for WPD since the department’s K-9 program began.

An animal lover and self-described “dog geek,” Williams said he knew as soon as he got into law enforcement that he wanted to work with the K-9s.

“Dogs have always been a big part of my life so it was kind of a no-brainer,” Williams said. “It was something I wanted to do for a long time.”

In recent years, Williams had been handling Max, one of the Woodburn Police Department’s previous K-9 officers.

However, Max fell unexpectedly sick in the end of January and had to be put down.

Although Bart has been performing well and the pair has already bonded, there are still mixed emotions, Williams said.

“We put a lot of time and effort into Max to get him to be successful,” Williams said. “When he got sick and had to be put down and all that, it was really tough.”

Police Capt. Jason Alexander agreed, calling the transition “bittersweet.”

“It’s always difficult when you have a dog [whose] job is to save an officer’s life and then they die,” Alexander said. “You do become attached to them and it does become a bit emotional when they do pass.”by: LINDSAY KEEFER - Woodburn K-9 Bart stares at his toy, held by his handler, Officer Zach Williams.

Williams said it helps that the two dogs are similar in some ways. They both have fierce work ethics, he said, and noted that when it’s time to go, “they go full speed.”

The biggest difference, however, is that Bart has a more playful side when he’s not working, Williams said. He’s like a “social butterfly.”

“He’s still really young right now so he’s still got some puppy in him,” he said. “He’s kind of goofy at times. But when it comes time to work he’s very focused and very intense.”

Alexander said he has also observed Bart’s playful side.

“He’s a very strong, very active dog,” Alexander said. “He’s driven and he’s very good. ... (But) he’ll let you pet him.

“He knows the difference between ‘Let’s work right now’ and ‘These guys are just trying to be friendly.’ He’s a little more laid back, I guess.”

Alexander said Bart and Williams performed exceptionally well together during their training session in recent weeks.

“Zach’s a professional,” he said. “He’s been around dogs his whole life and he’s a trainer.

“They passed with flying colors.”

The police captain noted that even though Williams has been handling K-9s for several years and is “exceptional at what he does,” officers have to go back to square one any time there is a new dog.

“They have to build that rapport and that trust with one another,” Alexander said. “And they’ve just gone through it remarkably well. Bart is very good at what he does and he’s very responsive to Zach. They passed with no problems whatsoever.”

When asked about the K-9 program, Williams stressed it is dependent on donations from the community, noting he “couldn’t thank them enough.”

Bart’s addition, in fact, comes from a donation called the Lavelle Black Trust Fund, a $50,000 contribution made by a local man on behalf of his late wife.

When the fund was set up back in 2011, Leonard Black told the Woodburn Independent he wanted to do something to honor his wife, Barta Lavelle Black.

She believed deeply in the K-9 program, he said.

“Service dogs were my wife’s passion,” Black said in a November 2011 interview.

“It was because she knew people who personally had service dogs.

“She wanted to donate enough to buy a dog. This way our police officers are a little bit safer. She thought it would do more good to buy a dog for the whole community of Woodburn, to make police officers safer and criminals get caught faster.”

Bart now carries on her name as a reminder of Black’s generous donation.

The new police dog joins two other K-9 units on staff with WPD: Grizz, a drug-sniffing dog, and Rudy, a fellow patrol unit.




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