Bernardsville – A township couple is making a difference in the country one K-9 at a time.
Caesar DePaço, Ph.D. donated his first K-9 police dog, Kondro, to the Hillsborough Police Department in 2013. Two years later, he and his wife, Deanna Padovani-DePaço, have helped 13 dogs find homes in agencies around the country, including New Jersey.
“It became addicting and very gratifying to my husband to help these police departments,” Deanna Padovani-DePaço said Friday by phone. The couple were in the car returning from Virginia, where they helped departments in Roanoke and Harrisonburg acquire K-9 dogs.
“It feels super great to see the emotion and the reaction of the recipients of the dogs,” Padovani-DePaço said. “They are always so humble and grateful.”
Obtaining a K-9 police dog can be a large expense to a department, Padovani-DePaço said. Dogs cost around $10,000 each depending on their capabilities and training. It’s an expense Padovani-DePaço said some police departments cannot afford, especially when something unexpectedly happens to a K-9 dog.
In Oklahoma City, Sgt. Ryan Stark’s K-9 partner, Kye, died after a man who ran from police stabbed him three times in August, according to a local media report. Five months later, Stark was back on the streets with his new dog, Kayne, thanks to the DePaço’s.
“It’s almost like a blessing, because they (police departments) don’t know where they would of obtained the funds or budgets to obtain a K-9,” Deanna Padovani-DePaço said.
Knowing that, the DePaço’s monitor the media and keep an eye on the Internet for any unfortunate news of a department in need of a K-9.
Just this Thursday, a police dog was shot dead in Southern California during a police standoff with a man barricaded in a residence. The dog, Sultan, entered the residence through a small crawlspace and sustained a life-ending gunshot inside the home, local media reports said.
The DePaço’s K-9 officer liaison, Hillsborough Township Police Officer Chris Engelhardt, already has a call out to the department to see if they need help replacing Sultan.
“These people, they don’t have to do this,” said Engelhardt, who was the recipient of the DePaço’s first donated dog, Kondro. “This is their own money and it helps the townships out, especially in New Jersey. They go above and beyond what they have to do.”
Perhaps the DePaço’s generosity stems from their gratitude they have for the United States. Caesar DePaço is a product of the American Dream. A European citizen who came to the country 20 years ago, DePaço started Branchburg-based Summit Nutritionals International ®, a leader in manufacturing U.S.-made raw nutritional supplements.
A message on the company website sums up how DePaço feels about the United States.
“Caesar DePaço reminds us to … ‘ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,'” the words made famous by the late former President John F. Kennedy.
“He lives by and tries to fulfill it as best as possible,” Deanna Padovani-DePaço said.
Caesar DePaço always had a love for dogs and an admiration for law enforcement, his wife says. So in 2013, he donated the funds to help the Hillsborough Police Department acquire a new K-9 police dog after its former dog, Raider, retired from service.
Since then, the Deal Police Department in Monmouth County and the Morris County Sheriff’s Department have received dogs thanks to DePaço. Outside of New Jersey, the DePaço’s have helped agencies in Kansas City, Florida, Oklahoma City and Virginia.
The dogs all come from the same kennel in Denver, Ind., Vohne Liche Kennels. The kennel has a “prominent reputation” in the industry, Deanna Padovani-DePaço said. Owned and operated by a former Marine, Vohne Liche helps train dogs for the CIA and other government agencies, she said.
Police departments contact Vohne Liche directly so they can provide a dog that fits every department’s specific needs, Padovani-DePaço said.
Caesar DePaço also donates bullet proof vests for the dogs — a cost of roughly $3,000 — and gift cards to Petco for food and other supplies. In total, each department receives a donation of around $13,000.
“They’re doing a lot of great things,” said Engelhardt, the Hillsborough officer. “And it’s non-stop work. They go out and meet these dogs, take out the families and trainers to a nice dinner.”
But to the DePaço family, this is just one way for them to give back — and hopefully motivate others to do the same.
“We’re very involved in the community and we’re trying to put a stamp on the nation and show people that it’s easy to help,” Deanna Padovani-DePaço said. “And we love to give back. There’s no catch.”