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Jim Hemig: Man’s best friend

Photo from the Rüdiger Fan Club Facebook page
Kial James |

This is a story about a dog. Man’s best friend.

Growing up in Morgan Hill, just south of San Jose, in what is now the Silicon Valley, my two brothers and I used to play on our swing set in the backyard after school with our faithful dog Buffy always under foot.

Buffy was part German Shepherd, part Labrador Retriever. She was a big, all-black dog with a little white chin. She was shaped more like a Shepherd, with a black stealth fighter look about her.



Buffy was the nicest dog ever, always friendly. Any neighborhood kids that came over were instantly her friends.

Dogs have a special purpose in our lives that nothing, no person, no inanimate object, no other animal, can ever replace.

Buffy was 100 percent an “outside” dog. At that age, my brothers and I didn’t think about what she did all day. She probably just lounged around in the garage or backyard. But once we were home from school or on weekends, Buffy was right in the mix with “her” boys.




We didn’t see this dog as anything but a friend — an ever-loyal companion. And, of course, the source of the never ending chore of feeding and “burying the poop” our Dad was always demanding on weekends.

Until one weekend when all that changed.

The three young Hemig brothers were outside riding bikes on our quiet cul-de-sac. My youngest brother was only about seven years old.

Suddenly, a good-sized neighbor dog bolted from an open front doorway, barking and sprinting straight at my youngest brother on his bike.

My other brother and I were close by, but this happened so fast that we didn’t move an inch or even have time to think before Buffy, with a controlled purpose, leapt a six-foot-tall wooden fence and ran in a straight line to intercept the neighbor dog.

The two clashed in the middle of the cul-de-sac. Fur standing on end, teeth snarling, angry barking and a side of our ever-gentle dog we boys had never seen.

The three of us just stood there on our bikes, frozen in time. A few seconds felt like an hour. I’ll never forget it.

Buffy not only took control, beating down this other dog of equal size, but chased it all the way back into its house and finished the job in their front entry way before my father heard the commotion and hauled Buffy out of their house by her collar.

Buffy must have been watching us riding our bikes through the fence slats and saw the other dog coming out of the house before we even noticed. She effortlessly scaled a fence meant to keep her in and cut off the aggressor mid-flight. We had no idea Buffy had this in her.

You’ll likely understand, for three young boys that was one heck of an experience. We still tell this story all these years later at family gatherings. It is our special way of remembering our now long-gone protector.

What’s the point to all this? Dogs have a special purpose in our lives that nothing, no person, no inanimate object, no other animal, can ever replace.

Companion. Friend. Protector. Many people already understand this connection.

But our Nevada City Police Department appreciates this more than most. They have their own Buffy. His name is Rüdiger.

Rüdiger is a bit of a rarity, too; a 100 percent community-funded police dog, since Nevada City had no funding to secure a police K9.

The Western Nevada County K9 Association was formed to support the acquisition, initial and on-going training and equipping of a Nevada City Police Department K9 Officer. The community, after learning the value a police dog could provide, stepped up to raise the initial $71,000 necessary to purchase and train Rüdiger.

However, there are ongoing costs associated with a K9 Police Officer. About $28,000 per year is needed for food, vet costs, kenneling, fuel and maintenance for the K9 vehicle and ongoing training. Rüdiger will continue training about one day a week throughout his career.

So far, the money raised fell short of purchasing the safety package for Rüdiger. The Western Nevada County K9 Association is trying to also raise an additional $10,000 for a bulletproof vest/body camera system for the K9 Police Officer.

Rüdiger will be celebrating his second birthday from 5 to 9 p.m. next Tuesday, Feb. 9, at the Golden Era cocktail lounge. There will be a Mardi Gras theme with beads, chocolate coins and a special drink, the Fat Tuesday Rüdiger, for sale. Golden Era will give $1 per drink sold to support Rüdiger’s ongoing costs. This is part of the Western Nevada County K9 Association’s “Rüdiger Tuesdays” that happen the second Tuesday of each month at the Golden Era.

The best part of this party is that Rüdiger will be in attendance. Most police dogs are trained not to interact with the public, but you can meet and pet Rüdiger.

I asked Nevada City Police Chief Tim Foley why a K9 Officer is important to our community.

“Keeping officers and the community safe is Rüdiger’s number one role,” he responded. “Additionally, he conducts building searches; he’s trained for tracking, for apprehension and for narcotics detection— all of which can be dangerous for any officer, whether they have two legs or four. On top of that, he’s a valuable tool in community relations.”

Rüdiger will have a great deal of responsibility, more than anyone or anything else could likely handle. Just like my dog Buffy, I know Rüdiger will protect and serve us well.

To contact Publisher Jim Hemig, email jhemig@theunion.com or call 530-477-4299.


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