SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) – A University of Utah police K9 working as a “bomb dog” died on Wednesday, according to a press release from the university’s Department of Public Safety.
“With very heavy hearts, we announce the unexpected passing of our much-loved K9, Zarah, on Wednesday, February 8th after a brief illness. We send our sincere condolences to both of her trainers, Matt Feltenberger and Jason Jarvie,” the university states.
Her latest handler, Officer Jarvie, says Zarah had a particular ability to stay sharp on long deployments. “Because of the intensely physical nature of searching for explosives over large areas like arenas and stadiums, dogs normally go on short deployments,” the release states.
Officer Jarvie had this to say about Zarah’s work in the field: “Zarah had the ability to be super effective through very long deployments and had a ton of stamina despite her age. With her I learned about endurance, about what’s possible with true passion for the work.”
The university says Zarah didn’t have any pedigree, “let alone a fancy one,” and that she wasn’t the youngest dog, at nine years old. Zarah was all about “attitude and determination.”
She partnered up with Officer Jarvie in the summer of 2021, the release states. The two reportedly had “an amazing connection,” allowing Jarvie to get her to do things that “no one else could.”
The university says Zarah served as a “bomb dog” with their police department for four years, clearing venues for all major sporting events and helping local police on a smaller-scale after bomb threats. “She worked NBA games and the Iron Man World Championships in St. George. Every job was motivated solely by a tennis ball.”
Despite her love for the work, however, the release states that Zarah’s “playful nature” could be seen in her mornings spent “pouncing through and attacking the snow” while Jarvie shoveled the driveway, or while she waited for Jarvie’s daughter to throw sticks for her.
“She would go up to my daughter and just howl until she threw a stick. She trained my daughter like that,” Jarvie says.
Officers reportedly always knew when she was around due to “her signature bark-howl” that would echo through the building. “Her hound DNA was evident,” the release states.
Patrol Lieutenant Rich Whittaker says you really couldn’t ask for a better dog.
“Rest in peace, Zarah. We hope heaven is full of tennis balls, soft beds, and all the treats you can eat. Thank you for your grit and your great love for protecting people. You were a good gal,” the university states.
The department is reportedly working to build a four-dog team for their K9 unit, where each dog will partner up, live, and work with their respective officer.