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SEPTA Police Host Annual "Iron Dog" Challenge

Manuel McDonnell Smith
Public Information Manager

Braving the frosty November chill, 27 police officers and their canine partners gathered at SEPTA Police's Canine Training Facility in North Philadelphia to take on the second-annual Brad Fox Iron Dog Challenge. Cheered on by their supporters and other officers, the teams were challenged to overcome a specially-designed course of more than twenty-five obstacles that replicated the daily trials that a canine officer team could face on a daily basis. Course obstructions included land & water based obstacles, criminal apprehension practice, officer dog carry, and explosives detection.

Beyond just serving as an annual training tradition for the dogs and their trainers, the dog challenge is also a memorial for a fellow officer. In 2011, Officer Fox of the Plymouth Township Police Department was killed in the line of duty while pursuing a gunman. "Many of the SEPTA Canine Officers trained with Officer Brad Fox, " said Sgt. Donn Wagner of SEPTA Police Department. "Our officers had a special bond with Brad and his untimely death was difficult for us to accept. SEPTA Canine Officer Dave Parke created the idea of an Iron Dog Competition to be held in his memory and did an outstanding job of bringing everyone together," explained Wagner. The event which was held for the first time in 2012.

While teams from SEPTA's Canine Force did not finish in the top three places, SEPTA placed first in commitment to the event. Employees from the Authority built the entire obstacle course, coordinated nearly all of the planning and support for the event, and served as chief "cheerleaders" during the day. One SEPTA officer, to the amusement of all in attendance, ran the entire competition course in a gold, full body scuba suit.

Although readiness training is an ongoing process for the canine officers of SEPTA and the other departments who are sworn to protecting our region, this event is one that both the canine's and their human partners look forward to each year. "Many of the canine officers are already looking forward to competing in next year's Iron Dog" said Wagner.

In addition to the friendly rivalry among the different departments, due to the special efforts of these cops and their canine comrades who turned the anniversary of a tragedy into an annual tradition, some extra cheer will be delivered to children in the Delaware Valley this holiday season. The event raised over $1,400 in cash that will be contributed to the Fox Children's Fund. Additionally, bundles of brand-new children's toys were contributed by SEPTA and other participating regional police officers. The toys will be given to the Marine Corps' annual Toys for Tots campaign where they will be distributed to families during the holiday season.

This was the second year that SEPTA police hosted the Brad Fox Iron Dog Challenge.

In addition to a memorial event, officers and canines from across departments who trained together had a chance to reunite.

Officers also raised money for the Brad Fox Children's Fund and contributed new toys for the Toys for Tots Campaign.

SEPTA Police Officer Ted Hrycyszyn and his K9 partner Yyork. The team specializes in explosive detection and ran the course in a full scuba outfit.

The event is hosted at SEPTA Police's Canine Training Facility in North Philadelphia.