The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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February 2, 2013

Cause for the paws: Tomahawks fundraiser benefits city K-9 unit

JOHNSTOWN — Athos, a 7-year-old Belgian Malinois, is quite familiar with apprehending criminal suspects and sniffing out narcotics.

But, over the past few days, the four-legged member of the Johnstown Police Department K-9 Corps has developed a different – less intense – skill.

The dog, working with his handler, Sgt. Michael Plunkard, has learned how to precisely place a hockey puck onto the hard, cold, slick ice inside the Cambria County War Memorial Arena. He will display the newly developed talent on Feb. 16 during the Johnstown Tomahawks’ Pucks & Paws Night.

Athos will drop the ceremonial first puck before the home team’s game against the Wenatchee Wild, which will begin at 7 p.m.

“It’s really no different than any other training that we do,” said Plunkard. “It’s just a different way of thinking about it.”

Police Officer Mike Kanuch, who oversees the unit, added, “It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of repetition. You have to show the dog that it’s going to be fun to do it.”

For a $5 fee, fans will be allowed to bring a dog to the game. The money raised will go to the K-9 Corps. “I appreciate the Tomahawks stepping up and raising the money for our K-9 unit because it really helps when the community donates,” said Plunkard. “If it wasn’t for the community donations, Johnstown would not have this K-9 unit.”

Pucks & Paws Night is the latest in a series of Tomahawks promotions designed to benefit the community. The first-year junior hockey team has already sponsored events to honor veterans, EMS workers, police officers, firefighters and organizations working to raise breast cancer awareness.

“The main mission of the Johnstown Tomahawks was twofold: Help develop youth hockey in the area, but also be a part of the community,” said Chris Anderson, the club’s director of ticket operations.

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