Estes Park Police Department Chief Wes Kufeld announced the recruitment of the department's newest member -- K9 Diego, a Belgian Malinois. Diego joins Officer Handler Mikel Otazua to serve as Estes Park's first K9 team. Diego was named at birth, in Holland in May of 2018. He received basic training in Florida.
Chief Kufeld noted, "This is an exciting time for our community and agency, and we couldn't have done this without community support." He added, " We're looking forward to introducing Diego to the community at a welcome reception in late October, tentatively."
Officer Otazua, his supervising Sergeant, Mark Swallow, along with Loveland Sergeant and K9 trainer Steve Colburn, Loveland Officer/Handler Stephan Marchio and Veterinarian Dr. Mike Green, visited numerous kennels and selected Diego as the best fit for Estes Park. The process includes testing for personality, temperament, stamina and agility, and a rigorous veterinary exam.
Officer Otazua commented, "Diego was our top choice. Together, we cannot wait to embark on this new journey and to serve the Estes Valley." As handler and K9, the pair begin with a month of bonding time, followed by rigorous K9/handler training. Otazua noted that his lifelong dream of being a K9 handler was made possible by encouragement from the community, the department, and his family and friends.
Approximately $60,000 of the $80,000 initial program costs have been raised by community donations. To learn more and support the program, please contact Captain Eric Rose at 970-577-3827.