Honoring a K9 hero: Officers gather signatures to name dog park for "Ivan"

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Honoring a K9 hero: Officers gather signatures to name dog park for "Ivan"

CREATED Dec 26, 2012

Reporter: Marcelino Benito

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Under Arizona law, they're just service dogs, but in the eyes of law enforcement, police K9's are fellow officers. Less than two weeks ago, TPD lost one of their own when an armed felon shot and killed "Ivan".

9OYS reporter Marcelino Benito asked Ofc. Paul Sheldon what the loss of a K-9 was like. He replied, "It was devastating. Can't come up with a better word than that. All of us, grown men, were welling with tears. It was not a fun experience. It hurt a lot."

Police officers are now channeling that hurt into a memorial for "Ivan". They want to make sure he's not forgotten.

"I can't think of a better tribute for a K-9 then to have a dog park named in his honor," Sheldon said.

To make it happen, the Tucson Police Officers' Association needs to collect 150 signatures from residents who live in a 1.5 mile radius from the park. Officers spent the day working to collect those signatures. Once dog lovers heard "Ivan's" story it wasn't hard putting pen to paper.

"It's a great idea to name it after him," said one woman.

"It's bad enough when you lose an officer, but a dog that's hard to take especially for dog owners. I think I'd like to see him memorialized with a statue right outside the park," said another man.

The question on a lot of minds: why a park in Rita Ranch? The answer: because it's not just any park.

"It's a perfect fitting for a hero," said Sheldon.

Purple Heart Park was where Ivan and his handler would come to unwind after a long day. It's where they would play like many dogs do day after day. Although "Ivan" is gone, TPOA wants the people who come and go here, to remember his sacrifice.

"He [Ofc. Chris Fenoglio] brought "Ivan" here every night," Sheldon said. "When he gets his next partner, he will bring him here every night and for all of us as dog handlers, when we see "Ivan's" name attached to this park, we're all going to end up bringing our dogs to this park."

In just four hours out at the park Wednesday, they got 188 signatures, 38 more than required. It will now be up to Tucson's Mayor and Council to approve the change.

If approved, the name change will occur sometime after February. If you'd like to donate to help pay for the costs of the signage, click here for a link to TPOA.