Berks County Sheriff Eric Weaknecht and his wife, Jessica have always been animal lovers. When last year's Humane Association Hero Dog Awards aired, the heroic efforts displayed by the finalists remained etched in Jessica's mind. She couldn't help but reflect throughout the year on the heroic efforts of Jynx, one of her husband's department canines who lost his handler, Deputy Sheriff Kyle D. Pagerly, last year to gunshot wounds. She contacted the late Deputy's widow, Alecia, and suggested that Jynx be entered into the contest. Alecia agreed and on October 6, Alecia, her daughter Savannah, Jynx, Sheriff Weaknecht and Jessica will fly to Beverly Hills, CA to learn whether or not Jynx has garnered enough votes nationwide to be announced the 2012 Hero Dog and win another $10,000 for his charity partner.
Weaknecht recalled the events of that fateful evening. 'Berks County Sheriff's K-9 Deputy Kyle D. Pagerly was on a routine warrant delivery with federal agents. Jynx alerted Deputy Pagerly to a hill where an assailant lay armed and waiting to ambush. Jynx charged the hill as the sniper rose and began firing. Deputy Pagerly was shot seconds before Jynx got a bite on the assailant. By flushing out the shooter, precious seconds were added to the assisting deputies' arrival. Jynx had desperately worked to pull Deputy Pagerly and another officer out of harm's way during ensuing gunfire that only ended when the assailant was killed. 'Credited for saving several law enforcement officers that evening, Jynx was even awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic efforts during Deputy Pagerly's funeral as Governor Corbett, U.S. Marshalls and hundreds of others looked on.
As part of the contest entry requirements, Alecia chose a newly formed Texas-based organization appropriately named K9s4Cops. Formed as a non-profit just three months before her husband was killed, K9s4Cops, has since placed 23 canines from the Vohne Liche Kennels (Denver, Indiana) with law enforcement agencies and school districts in Texas, Tennessee and Iowa. Vohne Liche Kennels has a long standing relationship with military and law enforcement agencies nationwide, providing Belgian Malinois, Dutch Shepherds, German Shepherds, and even Labradors. K9s4Cops founder, Kristi Schiller's goal is 'to ensure that every law enforcement officer in need of a K-9 has one at their side, well trained and ready for action.'
According to Ryland Holmes, Director of Communications for K9s4Cops, the staff of the Hero Dog contest contacted them to announce that they have been chosen as a charity partner for Jynx. One week later, they received an e-mail from Alecia sharing the story of that fateful night. Though Holmes said 'there was not a dry eye in the organization that day', she also stated that 'they were truly humbled by the honor of being Jynx's charity partner for such a prestigious event.' So far, Jynx has won $5,000 for K9s4Cops by being one of eight finalists and if he wins on October 6, another $10,000 will be donated.
It has been a long road for Jynx. His handler was killed. He was retired. Alecia gave birth to her and Kyle's only child and he has been thrust into the spotlight time and again. Jynx has already beaten out 15 contestants in his category to win the first round of a national contest. His appearances at fundraisers have helped raise money for the Kyle Pagerly Memorial Fund and the Kyle Pagerly K-9 Training Center which is scheduled to open soon in Leesport, PA. Jynx inspired 'Friends of Berks County Sheriff's K-9's' which provides education and awareness to the citizens of Berks County as well as to help maintain and enhance the Berks County Sheriff's Department K-9 unit. Weaknecht believes 'the most significant contribution is the attention that Jynx's presence has drawn to K-9 programs and the departments that K-9 partners serve.'
The events that unfolded the night Deputy Pagerly died was heart-wrenching to all those who knew him and even those that didn't. It was a senseless death but truly revealed just how dangerous law enforcement has become even in a rural Berks County community. It has been Jynx that has helped the community come together and heal. To the law enforcement community, they know that a K-9 partner is a breed above other canine heroes because they bravely go into life threatening situations to protect their human partner and the public. For those officers who returned home to their families that evening, Jynx will always be a hero.
Go to www.herodogawards.org and cast your vote once a day, every day until Oct. 5. The Hallmark Channel will air the ninety minute awards special on Nov. 2.