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Tiadaghton Valley Regional Police Department mourns loss of K-9 Zoli

The Tiadaghton Valley Regional Police Department has lost a member of its team.

K-9 Zoli, a 3-year-old German Shepherd with a 19-month career with the TVRPD, passed away after a string of veterinary specialist visits resulted in him being diagnosed with stage five Lymphoma.

“It is with great sadness for us to announce the passing of K-9 Zoli,” the regional police force said on its Facebook page. “Over the past few weeks Zoli had been ill and losing weight.”

Zoli, TVRPD’s first K-9 dog, joined the Jersey Shore-based department in late 2019. Through his 19-month career with the department, Zoli aided the department in 32 narcotics investigations, and tracked and located two missing people. Finally, Zoli helped discover evidence in a burglary investigation.

However, despite being a disciplined work dog, Zoli had a family outside of the department as well.

Zoli lived with officer Josh Klinger, a night shift employee at the TVRPD, and accompanied him from the moment he woke up to the moment he went to sleep.

“He was able to interact with my family, and was a good working dog to go out and do the things he did,” Klinger said. “He was a good dog, kind of a goofball but he knew when to be serious.”

Zoli and Klinger worked nights together, which meant Zoli did not often have opportunities to meet people. However, when people did see Zoli, plenty of area residents would walk up and pet him.

“I was surprised to see how much the community supported Zoli and was upset to see him go soon,” Klinger said, reflecting on the Facebook post. “It was nice for me, I could read through the comments and see what people said.”

Zoli joined up with the Tiadaghton Valley Regional Police in response to growing drug activity, particularly methamphetamine, in the department’s coverage area; especially with Route 220’s path through Jersey Shore Borough.

Klinger began researching training for himself after the department’s commission approved him for fundraising. Community donations funded Klinger’s month-long training to work with a K-9.

After Klinger had been trained, it was a matter of picking up Zoli from Shallow Creek Kennels in Mercer County. Klinger and Zoli worked with the North American Police Work Dog Association, and travelled biweekly to a trainer in Altoona where they kept themselves up-to-date with narcotics tracking and training to maintain proficiency.

In addition to that training, Zoli and Klinger also achieved certification through the National Search and Rescue Organization. The two traveled to New York City alongside a medic team where they took advanced K-9 medicine classes, in case Zoli was injured on the job.

Klinger’s training and purchase of Zoli cost around 11,500, which was entirely fundraised by the community. Additionally, the department needed to pay for a specialized vehicle to house Zoli, on top of medical bills, food and yearly training.

At the request of Zoli’s handler, there will be no service for the K-9.

“Zoli was the first K-9 for the Tiadaghton Valley Regional Police Department and will be greatly missed,” the department’s Facebook page read.

As the department mourns its loss, it will work with Shallow Creek Kennels to explore options to continue its K-9 program.

Monday night, The TVRPD commission approved plans to send Klinger to Shallow Creek Kennels to become acclimated to a new K-9 dog, according to TVRPD Chief Nathan Deremer.

“Over the last 18 months, I’ve realized how important a K-9 unit is to the team and community,” Deremer said. “People used to donate treats and toys, and I’m going to do what I can to continue the K-9 program to benefit the community.”

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