It’s been nearly a year since Apollo, the only serving police dog in Lebanon city, retired. Now, advocates of the K-9 program are hoping a silent auction next month will raise much of the needed funding to put another deputized dog on the streets.

The 2023 City of Lebanon Police K-9 Fund Fall Auction will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 5, at the Mansion at Fifth, 450 Cumberland St. Bidding begins at 4 and ends at 7:30 p.m.

The auction will feature local items, gift certificates “and a large selection other auction of items to bid on.” Some of the featured items include a lunch with Mayor Sherry Capello or Police Chief Bret Fisher at Rocco’s Philadelphia Hoagies, a bulletproof briefcase, scratch-off lottery tickets and a future K-9 team baseball card spotlighting the city’s next canine officer.

In addition to the auction items, the event will include an hors d’oeuvres table showcasing “A Taste of Lebanon. Made in Lebanon.”

Unfortunately, seats at the auction are already sold out, organizers told LebTown. There are, however, other ways people can help.

A brief history of the program

Apollo, the last K-9 officer, “unexpectedly retired” on Nov. 30, 2022, after nine years of service, according to a statement issues this past summer by auction organizers. “The department was left to fill an unfunded void, of a handler and a canine,” the statement read, noting that a K-9 officer provides “added safety and security to our community, the region and (its) officers.”

According to Mayor Capello, the city first started the K-9 Program under Mayor Donald Griffith in the early 1980s.

“The first K-9’s name was Mindy,” she said. “However, she did not pass the training because she was afraid of gun fire.”

Next up was a dog named Arco, who partnered with Capello’s husband but, unfortunately, Arco got loose and ran away less than a week into the program.

In 2000, city resident Tony Matula launched a campaign that raised $21,000 to resurrect the K-9 program under Mayor Jackie Parker, Capello said.

When Capello became mayor in January 2010, the city had two K-9 officers, Friday and Axle. Because of Axle’s age, she said, then-Councilman Matula started a fundraising campaign. When Axle died in 2013, the community had already raised over $41,000 for the program.

“Not only were we able to obtain another K-9 (K-9 Apollo), but we were able to replace the K-9 vehicle with a used SUV,” Capello said.

According to the mayor, Apollo was sworn in on Nov. 1, 2013. His handler and partner was Officer Sean Buck.

Friday retired in 2017, and Apollo followed in Friday’s paw prints in 2022.

His officer, chief and mayor gather to pay their respects at Apollo’s retirement.

“We are proposing to only replace one K-9 at this time,” Capello said. The cost will be approximately $41,000, she said, including the dog, six weeks of training, room and board at the training facility and equipment.

Lebanon’s mayor is a firm advocate of the K-9 program.

“There are many urban police departments that utilize K-9s to track criminals, sniff out illegal materials, search buildings, and do other jobs human police officers can’t do as well as dogs can,” Capello told LebTown. “Not only are there thousands of police dogs on the job on any given day, but there are also hundreds of police dogs who have given their lives to protect and serve.”

K-9s provide police officers “with a more effective method of fighting crime,” she added. “Such examples of this would include the dogs using their noses for searching cars or buildings for illegal drugs that officers can’t see or smell. Dogs are also good for chasing down and taking down a suspect that may not comply with officers’ commands. This assists with making the job safer for the police officer and having a better outcome for the suspect.

“K9s are also very good for tracking a subject after the subject has left the scene. They use the scent of the suspect and follow their scent on the ground and track where they may have gone for hiding.”

The program “requires a major financial commitment and an even greater commitment in time and effort on behalf of the officer,” Capello added, but “we believe it is worth the investment and represents a significant benefit to our community.”

Raising funds for the program

Tony Matula continues to raise money for Lebanon’s K-9s, serving as event coordinator for the auction.

The auction, Matula noted, is just one of several fundraisers they’ve orchestrated over the years to benefit Lebanon police. The Pumpkin Frenzy, for instance, raised enough money for a bulletproof vest, he said.

To date, he said, they’ve raised about $125,000 for police through various fundraising efforts.

“Our goal with this year’s auction is $25,000,” Matula said. “I believe we will make it.”

After all these years, Matula remains strongly committed to the program.

“They give our police officers and the community additional safety (that’s) impossible for a human to offer,” he explained. “A K-9 drastically reduces the danger when sending our officers into a hostile situation. A crazed human will attack several other humans. Good luck pushing a K-9 around.

“They can detect illegal drugs and their drug money. The phrase ‘search and rescue’ needs no explanation for a mother who lost their child. Or patients with disability due to mental health that just (wander) away.”


Matula hopes to see the next K-9 officer sworn into service in Lebanon no later than next February. They are also raising money to help pay to refurbish a police vehicle for use with the K-9 officer, he said.

People who are unable to attend the auction but would still like to donate to the cause can send a check to the City of Lebanon Police Department K-9 Fund, 735 Cumberland St., Lebanon PA 17042, attn. Michelle Remlinger.

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Tom has been a professional journalist for nearly four decades. In his spare time, he plays fiddle with the Irish band Fire in the Glen, and he reviews music, books and movies for Rambles.NET. He lives with his wife, Michelle, and has four children: Vinnie, Molly, Annabelle and Wolf.


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