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Kimber the K9

On September 25, 2023, Kimber the K9 came home to the Sartell Police Department as a member of their team. Kimber is a 6-month-old Belgian Malinois and will average 45-50 lbs. She works alongside Officer Kari Bonfield who has served for more than 18 years. Though still a puppy right now, Kimber will be used for traumatic events and calls for service. This includes mental health calls, medicals, assaults, etc. She will be used for support in critical incidents for police, fire, and EMTs. In addition to that, her goals are to bridge the gap between the police and communities and also just make people smile - which is happening everywhere she goes.

“Getting Kimber actually happened pretty quick,” shared Officer Kari. “Sartell Police and Fire Department have a Peer Support team and the clinician that oversees the program sent an email out to numerous agencies asking if any department was interested in having a therapy dog. This initial contact happened in early September. Captain Mader was interested and presented it to the Chief who also jumped on board. Then an email was sent to the department looking to see if any officers were interested in being a handler. We went through an interview process, the city council supported it, and shortly after Kimber came home with me. It happened very fast, but we had interest, support, and the equipment for it to work that quickly.”

Kimber Sartell Thearpy K9Therapy dog programs within law enforcement in MN are a very new thing. Only a small number of Police Therapy dogs are employed. “Kimber is a police officer but specializes as a therapy and service dog. This program is up-and-coming and I see it becoming a more common program in the future. Most departments are used to having apprehension/bite, drug, or tracking dogs. Kimber is not any of those, she is strictly a therapy, service, and public relations dog.”

In her short time in Sartell, Kimber has attended Sartell volleyball games, sporting a pink bandana and pink toenails for Block Out Cancer night. She has attended Sartell Football games wearing her Sabre blue shirt.  “Since this program is so new to us and to Law Enforcement, we are looking for ways to engage her in the community. I have so many hopes, goals, and plans with her for events. She has stopped in local businesses,  assisted living facilities, the community center, schools, and parks! She bounces around city departments and the fire department as well. She will be at National Night Out making her rounds, as well as the Police Activity League (PAL) this summer. Lots of exciting opportunities come up every week for her to come and sniff around.”

There are so many community members already supporting Kimber and making her position possible. “Kimber is unique in that she (and our training) were donated to the department by Soldiers 6 Minnesota. Her vet care is being donated by Granite City Pet Hospital and her food is donated by Scheels. The police department does have a K9 fund if people want to donate money for other training items or fun items. I'm hoping to purchase Kimber baseball cards and stickers to hand out. I also want to get her a wardrobe for events! Kimber loves toys that squeak, but because she is on a strict diet, most treats aren't allowed. The best support Kimber can get is community support and love!”

What may surprise you is that Kimber wasn’t born and bred to be a Police Therapy And Emotional Support K9, but it was meant for her. When she was just 8 weeks old she was rescued and spent a week in a shelter. When the Soldiers 6 program saw how special she was, they took her in and started training her for her role. Even at just 6 months old, Kimber knows that when her vest is on, she is working.

Though Kimber has only been ‘home’ for a few weeks, she’s been busy! “I have deployed her on medical, mental health, and assault calls and she has done amazing. People are able to calm down and can focus on her. Sometimes she does nothing but lay by them, sometimes she gives them a little kiss, but she is an effective tool. I have had fun working on the training and seeing how responsive Kimber is to it. She will do pretty much anything for some of her kibble. Having her means I literally have a best friend who is with me all the time. She has brought so much happiness in a short amount of time to my partners and the City. I know she is going to do great things for this community and I am excited to take this journey with her.”

Officer Kari moved to the area in 1996 for college and never left. “I began working for Sartell PD in 2005 and have always been amazed at how much support this community gives us. My kids go to school here and we attend church here, so this is home for us too. I could not ask for a better community to serve. I love patrolling and seeing people out and about and talking with them. I like that I know a lot of people in the community. It makes serving the City much more personal and meaningful for me.”

“I've been an officer for 18 years and now having Kimber has changed my routine quite a bit. Stopping for bathroom breaks, and water breaks… remembering to shut the kennel slide so she doesn't come to the driver's seat and hit the siren button. We are learning a new normal together. I also need to remind myself (and the public) that she is just a puppy. She can get playful and spunky and just having to redirect her at times can get tricky. I'm also learning when and when not to deploy her. I need to be respectful of people's fears, cultures, allergies, and also Kimber's own safety. So finding that line will be a work in progress. The nice thing about Kimber is she isn't aware of the situation she is going into. Her job is to be a dog. Some of the calls we go on might be more difficult for officers, but to her, she is just being herself.”

“I feel that when neighboring communities see the benefits and positive responses from the communities that therapy dogs serve, additional departments will be inspired to start this program. As a community, in general, supporting police, fire, and EMTs contributes to the greater good. As for Kimber, her biggest request is to be kind to one another, and realize people may be fighting silent battles and kindness can go a long way.”

If you see Kimber and Officer Kari out and about, please say hello! Remember, Kimber is a puppy and they appreciate it when people ask if they can pet her before running up to her. Kimber also has her own Instagram and TikTok pages!