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Rocklin officer sniffing out way to save K9 from the budget axe

By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Last Friday Rocklin Police K9’s Zeus and Diva put on a show for about 60 Ruhkala Elementary School children but budget cuts could soon break up the doggie duo.
“The dogs can smell everything,” kindergartner Brady Byrnes said.
In this case, Rocklin Police’s German shepherd named Zeus was trained to search for evading criminals and detect bombs and explosives. Diva is the department’s only drug detection dog, a black Labrador who sits when she smells drugs.
Kindergartner Cole Parker has a German shepherd just like Zeus and learned how toys were used to train the dogs during the demonstration.
“They can smell the toys,” Parker said.
The gleeful school children were unaware of the budget battle, which is expected to force one K9 to trade in his badge and bullet-proof vest for an early retirement. In January, The Rocklin City Council directed the police department to cut more than $600,000 from the next budget.
“There are two full-time positions that would be funded before the K9 would be considered back in the budget,” Rocklin Police Chief Mark Siemens said. “Adding Zeus back in the budget is very unlikely.”
So that means by July, Zeus may be out of a job and his partner and handler Officer Jeff Kolaskey will have the option of adopting him, or more or less, put him out to pasture.
“He is a member of the family,” Kolaskey said. “He will stay with me and my two boys, who love him.”
Kolaskey said that means no more demonstrations in front of adoring school children and the department will have to call another law enforcement agency in the area if they need K9 assistance.
“We will be depending on neighboring agencies, Placer County Sheriff and Roseville PD, patrol K9 support when needed, if available,” Siemens said.
Kolaskey admits a delay could put Rocklin officers’ lives at risk.
“The dog is used so that officers do not have to search buildings looking for suspects that could potentially harm them with a weapon,” Kolaskey said.
Kolaskey said he hopes community outcry will force city council to reconsider cutting the K9 program. If not, he hopes a concerned public will help him save his canine partner.
“Hopefully we’ll have the options available to retire Zeus and acquire a younger fresh dog,” Kolaskey said.
Kolaskey said he needs local businesses and citizens to sponsor Zeus for another year and/or acquire and train a replacement.
According to city documents, the K9 unit needs $30,000 to stay afloat for the year and the city would need about as much to train the next one. Siemens said unless there is a last drop of rain, citizens are the only friends Zeus has right now.
“Those efforts would be the most likely avenue to maintain his duty status at this time,” Siemens said.
For Kolaskey, he’s resigned to the thought of losing his partner after 10 years on the force.
“He is old enough that retirement for him needs to be thought about, but I do not know for certain,” Kolaskey said. “He still wants to work.”
Rocklin Police Officer Jason Westgate’s drug dog Diva is not targeted for cuts.
Citizens or businesses willing to help, can contact Officer Jeff Kolaskey at 257-0140.

For more photos: Rocklin K9s visit with Ruhkala Elementary students