They didn’t want much for their birthdays — just to give Sarasota Sheriff’s Department’s canine companions a barking good time.
Being one of the four-legged members of Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office’s K-9 units can be a rough.
It’s a tough job with long hours and dangerous assignments, which is why two Sarasota County children wanted to thank Sarasota’s pawed protectors.
Siblings Anna Cate and Michael Barry decided to forgo their birthday party this year, and instead threw a K-9 Pawty.
“I read a book about police dogs,” 9-year-old Michael Barry said. “I like that they help the county.”
Initially, the children hoped they and a few friends could go to Woof Gang Bakery, and the Sheriff’s Office could bring a few dogs to the party for treats and tummy rubs.
But when the siblings’ mother, Ellen Barry, approached Woof Gang Bakery owner Mark Austin, he had other plans.
“Mark (Austin) said, ‘Let’s go big. Let’s invite everybody.’” Ellen Barry said.
So that’s exactly what they did.
Austin offered his bakery as the venue and partnered with Sarasota County Search and Rescue, while Ellen Barry invited food trucks and marketed the event on Facebook. In two weeks, the pair had put together a howling good party.
Family, friends and the K-9 units gathered at Woof Gang Bakery at 8278 Bee Ridge Road on Sunday afternoon to celebrate Sarasota’s courageous canines.
Attendees were encouraged to donate to the K-9 medical fund, which is used to address the medical needs of retired K-9s. Partygoers also donated toys and colored doggy bags so officers could take home the dog treats children decorated during the bash.
Deputies thanked Michael and Anna Cate for recognizing their dogs.
“They’re really special animals to us,” Sgt. Troy Sasse said. “They’re part of our families.”
Deputies also showed off the dogs’ skills by staging an altercation between Deputies Ryan McBride and Chris Indico.
As McBride walked out into the field in front of Woof Gang Bakery, partygoers had a hunch what was about to happen, and they were correct. As Indico and McBride began pushing each other, the audience could hear anxious barking from the K-9 Unit SUV parked about 30 feet away.
People gasped in disbelief when the door flew open and Indico’s canine partner raced to his rescue. Without the cumbersome protective suit, McBride still would not have stood a chance. He was taken down with ease, much to the delight of the audience.
Following the demonstration, Sasse said officers carry a remote device that opens their backdoors in case of emergency.
After demonstrating their skills in criminal apprehension, the dogs showed their softer side, cuddling against children's legs to receive scratches behind the ears.
“I hope the dogs felt loved and thanked and appreciated,” Ellen Barry said.
Austin said he was thankful to get to participate in the event and will continue to accept toy donations throughout this week.
“This is a great opportunity to introduce kids to law enforcement in a positive environment,” Austin said.