As the tangy smell of cajun jambalaya hit the air, a crowd of Cocoa Beach locals gathered at The Tiny Turtle on Saturday, March 5th to help support the newly formed Cocoa Beach K-9 unit. The Cajun for K-9 event helped raise money for important up-keep items for the new police dog such as vests, food, maintenance, and kennel needs.
“It is important to me any time I can give back to those guys who are putting their lives on the line for us,” said city commissioner Ed Martinez. “I am excited about the K-9 program and I hope that they prosper and do well.”
Thus far, the K-9 Unit consists of one canine, an 18 month old Belgian Malinois dog named Voodoo. Recently donated through the sheriff’s department, Voodoo has already had some prior training as the son of another canine. The dog grew up in a handler’s home with rigorous physical, verbal, obedience and command training. After being donated to the city, James Ritenour was chosen through an extended interview process to become the dog’s handler.
“So far having the dog has been great,” said James.
Ritenour and Voodoo must go through a 4 month training period together which entails apprehension, obedience, bonding and a 4 week narcotics training. Currently, they are in their second week of training.
The event was headed by active city member Casey Roberts and Coastal Produce owner Kenne Wells with donations and help from Island Animal Hospital, Barrier Island Pet Supply, and others.
“The dog is another police officer which is always needed,” said Wells. “We are very blessed to be able to do this.”
Overall, the Cajun for K-9 event raised $1300. Altogether the community has put together about $5300 since the idea of restarting a K-9 unit developed.
“This event is important because it means that the community is appreciating our efforts to keep everyone safe,” said Officer Ron Betts. “The K-9 unit program is imperative because it aids with people who bring drugs into the city, tracking, searching for missing people, finding fugitives,and the overall safety of the community.”