WAIPAHU, Hawaii (KHON2) — Some Honolulu police officers that take a bite out of crime were given more than a treat for their services on Saturday, June 26.
A new obstacle course and life-protecting gear is a token of appreciation forged from firefights overseas, which left a former Navy SEAL physically and mentally scarred.
James Hatch survived multiple deployments as a Navy SEAL, but a day in Iraq in 2009 almost took his life. Hatch found himself in a firefight on a mission to rescue an American soldier when he and his partner were hit by enemy fire.
“Right before I got shot, the dog that was helping us was shot in the head and killed. Then I was shot, and I felt like I had failed,” Hatch said.
He was critically wounded. Losing his K9 companion, Remco, as well as his career took a toll on his mental health.
“It makes me say this every time I get the chance; Never underestimate your ability to affect the trajectory of another human life, especially at their most vulnerable moments. Those guys helped me, so when I can come help dogs, help the cops, it makes my heart full and I am happy to be here.”James Hatch, founder of Spike’s K9 Fund
“I was really suicidal. The police came to me and helped. I wanted them to shoot me. Because I was mentally ill. The cops took care of me. They were very kind to me. They listened to me. They helped me get the help I needed,” Hatch said.
He decided to show his appreciation by returning the help to those who helped him and created Spike’s K9 Fund.
The fund is named after his former K9, Spike, who was the first of four of Hatch’s K9 to be killed in action. The fund has gone on to help over 1,400 dogs with training courses, gear like bulletproof vests and medical treatment.
“People go home to their family because of the work that the dogs do. So I really want to take care of them and make sure that they are cared for throughout their life,” Hatch said.
Spike’s K9 Fund donated a new course to the Honolulu Police Department Saturday, replacing a 20-year-old vinyl course that was falling apart. Only Nebraska and Wyoming are the remaining states that Spike’s K9 Fund has yet to assist.
“Our training is extremely important because the obstacle course is part of our yearly certification. We have to certify with an obstacle course that’s part of what we require of our handlers on a yearly basis,” Sgt. Brad Heatherly of the Honolulu Police Department said.
Spike’s K9 Fund provides fitted bulletproof vests to some dogs.
In 2018, HPD’s K9 Hunter was hit in the neck by a bullet while officer Pete Jones was shot and received a serious leg injury. Hunter’s vest saved his life.
“He had a vest on the vest that was donated he had a similar vest on and two rounds went into his vest and one into his neck.” Jones said.
It took an emergency surgery, but Hunter survived and is back in action.
“They’re the best city and county worker that the city has right now and we don’t pay them anything so to get donations to get support for a dog is unbelievable this is the least of what we should be doing for these guys,” Jones said.
Click here to visit the Spike’s K9 Fund website.