Santa Paula Times

Spaghetti Dinner: Now Councilman Rick Cook, Bronco were first SPPD K9 team

May 04, 2011
Santa Paula Police Department

The Santa Paula Police K9 Unit started with one officer and one dog, those who attended the 2nd Annual K9 Retirement Spaghetti Dinner learned from now Councilman Rick Cook, who told of his experiences with Bronco.

Held April 27 at the Community Center, the event honored longtime crime-fighter Evan, who “pawed down” in September. Evan and Sgt. Jimmy Fogata teamed up in September 2002 and served together eight years. Fogata, a seasoned K9 trainer, remains Evan’s partner at home, where the K9 is enjoying his retirement as a member of the family.

The dinner filled the Community Center with supporters of the SPPD K9 program who enjoyed a spaghetti dinner, taking their chances on winning an array of prizes, speeches, and a warm farewell to Evan. Under the direction of SPPD Sgt. Ryan Smith, also featured was a welcome to Zak, the SPPD’s newest K9 who is partnered with Officer Larry Johnson, and a demonstration of K9s in action.

Police Chief Steve MacKinnon told the crowd the SPPD has a long history of K9s, as reflected by the station’s “Wall of Honor” showing each dog, their name and years of service. “The very first dog,” he noted, “was Bronco.” MacKinnon introduced Cook, the first SPPD officer to partner with a K9 and who “realizes” firsthand “the importance of the program” to the department and the community.

Cook, who joined the SPPD in 1973, joked that although retired chief and fellow Councilman Bob Gonzales “was my first partner, in 1981 I got the best partner I ever had, Bronco. He never complained, was never late to work,” and demonstrated unflagging dedication to duty.

When the SPPD first considered the K9 program in 1980, there was some uneasiness due to the military-type training given dogs. But there was Tyson Kennels, a Menlo Park training facility that turned out more community orientated K9s, and after aggressive community fundraising Bronco was acquired.

Cook said the partnership started with determining who was top dog: “For the first couple of days there was bonding on both sides... I won with a few bites and scrapes!” Bronco and Cook received much training and responded where needed throughout then K9 short Ventura County.

In 1982 Bronco ranked high in the K9 Olympics, but the next year he fell during the competition; it was later learned he had ruptured a disc and, although he was operated on and returned to duty, Bronco had to retire in 1984. Shortly thereafter the German born K9, whose full name was Bronco Von Superstitch, became paralyzed and had to be put to sleep.

But Cook said the K9’s final days remained dedicated to duty: “I used to come home from work and take him out in the car for a ride” so Bronco could recreate the working environment he loved. Cook said, “He was happy” in his final days.

The community remains dedicated to the K9 program, and Cook said each dog represents the worth of “five officers at a fraction of the cost.... And I thank the council and the community for continuing to support the program.”