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Iron Dogs, Hearts of Gold

Heather Redfern
SEPTA Public Information Manager

Emergency responders, human or animal, are trained to answer the call no matter how poor conditions might be. On Saturday, November 1, members of 14 police K-9 units from across the Greater Philadelphia region took to SEPTA's K-9 unit training grounds at the Midvale District for the third annual Iron Dog/Mud Run - emphasis on mud - to demonstrate their agility when responding to a variety of challenges.

In a cold, steady downpour, dogs and their handler officers ran over walls, up hills and through water hazards, capturing "bad guys" that had "fired" guns and set off "explosives." While the teams were competing for prizes as they showed off their skills, the purpose of the event was to remember Officer Brad Fox, a Plymouth Township, Pa., K-9 police officer who was killed in the line of duty on September 13, 2012. Fox and his partner, Nick, a Belgian Malinois, trained at SEPTA's K-9 facility. "Officer Fox trained at our facility with many of our officers," said SEPTA Police Sergeant Donn Wagner, who is a member of the Authority's K-9 Unit. "The Iron Dog/Mud Run is a way for units in the region to honor his memory and support his family."

The Iron Dog is organized by SEPTA Police Officer Dave Parke, who also competed in the run with his partner, Zazu, an 11-year old Belgian Malinois who is scheduled to retire from the force in January.

"All of the K-9 officers, we are like a family," said Parke. "This is the last event we have for the year and it's one of the most special." The weather might not have been cooperative, but that didn't dampen the spirits of the participants or keep their loved ones away from the sidelines.

All officers participating in the Iron Dog Mud Run are asked to contribute a toy for the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots initiative. "That cause was very important to Officer Fox and this is just one more way we can keep his memory alive," said Parke. Money raised through the sale of t-shirts and donations usually supports the Fox children - Officer Fox left behind his wife Lynsay, daughter Kadence and an unborn child, Brad Jr., now almost two years old.

This year, Mrs. Fox asked that the donations support the families of Pennsylvania State Trooper Corporal Bryon Dickson and Trooper Alex Douglass. Members of SEPTA's K-9 unit, including Parke and Officer Jason Walter, who was in Fox's training class, had just returned to Philadelphia following their work in the manhunt for Eric Frein, who was wanted for killing Dickson and wounding Douglass on September 12.

The annual Iron Dog/Mud Run held in Officer Brad Fox's memory, is organized and hosted by SEPTA's K-9 unit and held at the Midvale District.

The muddy course was tough, but did not deter canine and human entrants.

Participants faced a variety of challenges, including crawling under fencing through the mud.

In one of the obstacles, officers had to carry their partners uphill.