Bay News 9 — Fallen Tampa officer’s legacy lives on in K-9 program

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By Laurie Davison, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, May 28, 2015, 11:16 AM

The legacy of a fallen Tampa police officer is living on through his family’s commitment to police K-9s.Tampa police Cpl. Mike Roberts was killed in the line of duty in 2009.Roberts’ wife, Cindy, said before he was killed he had an idea to start a K-9 first aid course to help officers and their canine partners.

Now, thanks to grant money Cindy Roberts received from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Community Hero Program, that dream has come to fruition. The course was developed by Frankie’s Friends, a charitable pet foundation.

A student in the first course, New Port Richey Ofc. Brian Golembeski, along with his K-9 Charlie K, is learning what to do if Charlie is ever hurt out in the field.

“One of the things we see and deal with on a regular basis is dehydration and overheating,” Golembeski said. “So that’s a thing that obviously I’m very interested in.”

Cindy said her husband loved his time as a K-9 handler.

“He would have wanted to be sitting in the first row of that class,” she said of her late husband. “He had often talked about how nice it would be because generally what these handlers do is call one another (and say) ‘Hey, this happened to my dog, have you had this happen?’ ”

During the course, K-9 handlers from throughout the Bay area are trained how to deal with everything from a scraped paw to a potentially life-threatening conditions for the animal.

“They’re (police dogs) bred, they’re trained to work and they love doing it,” said veterinarian Dr. John Gicking. “And they will work to the point where they fall over dead. So they will hide illnesses and injury really well.”

The source helps teach handlers how to recognize symptoms with their dogs before it gets to that point.

“It’s another way to bond with the dog,” Golembeski said, adding that the program also honored Cpl. Roberts’ legacy.

Cindy Roberts said her husband had spoke about becoming a sergeant and eventually moving back into the K-9 unit so he could spearhead programs like this.

“It’s very satisfying to carry out something that I know would have been so important to Mike,” Cindy said. “(And) something that’s so valuable to other officers that are still working. That’s the best thing I can do for Mike’s memory.”