Working only for a tennis ball and praise, Amelia’s youngest police officer can detect hidden narcotics within seconds when he’s not on patrol or apprehending criminals.

For nearly two years, Gator, a 3-year-old police K9 whose human partner is Amelia Patrolman Craig Heintzelman, has served the villages of Amelia and New Richmond. Gator, a nationally-certified police K9 trained in narcotics detection, handler/officer protection, tracking, article search and criminal apprehension, has his own police badge and bullet proof vest.

Now the Czech born Belgian Malinois is about to become the model for an Ohio Police K9 Memorial.

Planned for a site next to the Tall Trees subdivision on Ohio 125 in Amelia, the memorial will pay tribute to the four-legged officers who routinely put their lives in jeopardy for little more than a pat on the head. The memorial will be built in phases, with completion next year.

Since fundraising for the project began in June, supporters have largely relied on word of mouth and social media to sell about 75 bricks bearing the names of retired or deceased police K9s for $30 apiece, as well as $15 T-shirts bearing Gator’s likeness and a tribute to the four-legged “guardians of the night.”

“He’s a fantastic partner,” Heintzelman said of Gator. “He doesn’t ask for much for what he does, just a little love and appreciation.”

In May, Gator’s handler convinced Amelia officials to donate a high profile site for the memorial.

“We have some prime property on (Ohio) 125 that council thought would be a really great spot to showcase it,” Amelia Mayor Todd Hart said.

In their research, members of the Amelia Police Department found a couple of small police K9 memorials, but none honoring police K9s throughout Ohio, Amelia Police Chief Jeff Wood said.

The memorial will honor 300 retired and deceased police K9s. Its centerpiece will be a bronze statue in the likeness of Amelia’s K9, Gator. The statue will be created by Salt Lake City, Utah sculptor Lena Toritch.

The goal is to raise $40,000 to pay for the statue, bricks, flag poles and supplies needed to build the memorial, which will be built by volunteers. There will be three brick walls, each with 100 bricks bearing the names of Ohio K9s, a boulder, flag poles and a walkway leading to the memorial with benches. In a later phase, pet owners will be able to purchase bricks bearing the name of their pets for the walkway leading to the memorial.

Supporters recently had booths to raise money for the Ohio Police K9 Memorial at the Clermont County Fair and the Amelia Police Department’s National Night Out event.

“This is creating a legacy for handlers and their K9 partners,” Heintzelman said. “A lot of people think all police K9s do is go out and bite bad guys. But they do a lot more than chase criminals.”

Want to know what’s happening in Amelia? Follow me on Twitter @CindyLSchroeder.

How to help

To contribute to the Ohio Police K9 Memorial, you can purchase a brick with a police canine’s name for $30 or a T-shirt for $15 honoring police K9s throughout Ohio, or Guardians of the Night.

Checks can be made payable to Amelia Village but designate K9 on memo line. Contributions can be mailed to Amelia Village, 44 W. Main St., Amelia, Ohio 45102.

For more information, call 513-753-4747 or go to the Ohio Police K9 Memorial page on Facebook.