Eastlake’s newest K-9 recruit Officer Axel hits the ground running

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Students from Thomas Jefferson and Longfellow helped to name Eastlake’s newest K-9 recruit.

By Mimi Vanderhaven

The newest officer on the Eastlake Police Department is dark-haired and handsome, expertly trained and committed to serve and protect. He also loves to be scratched behind his ears and occasionally worries about fleas. Meet Officer Axel, Eastlake’s newest K-9 recruit.

His name comes by way of a contest between two Eastlake elementary schools, Thomas Jefferson and Longfellow.

Over the summer, Officer Mike Ward approached the schools with the idea to hold a contest to name the new K-9.

Allison Aber and Lisa George, principals at Longfellow and Thomas Jefferson, respectively, along with Megan Watson, assistant to both schools, and Jacque Sparent, the family liaison, planned a food drive to go along with this contest. Collected food was donated to the Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools food pantry located at Edison Elementary School.

“During a week in September, all classrooms in both schools collected food, with the understanding that the top two classrooms in each building would win the opportunity to assist in the naming,” says Lisa.

And, as a special prize, they also won a pizza party with Officers Ward and Axel, donated by Master Pizza.

Following the drive, the top classrooms in each building compiled a list of 10 possible names, from which the police department made the final choice of Axel.

His first day on the job was Friday, November 9, and in early December, Officer Ward visited the school to thank the children and introduce them to Officer Axel, who is an 18-month-old German shepherd/Belgian malinois mix. He is the first K-9 officer the department has had since 2013 and underwent extensive training for the job in Pennsylvania this fall.

Officer Ward reports he had been interested in acting as a K-9 handler since he started as an officer in 2003. According to the department, he received permission from Chief Larry Reik to apply for grants to purchase the dog.

And it turns out the schools weren’t the only ones to get involved with Officer Axel. Generous area residents and civic groups held fundraisers to offset the cost of training.

Says Lisa, “We were very excited to be a part of something connecting the community and the schools.” For details, visit WESchools.org.