RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Every photo from Harry Pherson’s days in the Richmond Police Department’s K9 Unit has a story behind it: drug busts, tracking suspects and, of course, the dogs.
“I don’t remember the year of that,” the retired officer says looking at one picture that still hangs on the wall of the K9 complex on Forest Lawn Drive. “I think it’s ’91.”
Even while Pherson was still doing it, he knew how special this type of police work was. He made it his goal twenty years ago to learn about those who paved the way for him.
“I started talking to former K9 handlers, trying to get some information, stories about it, and it sorta snowballed from there,” he explains.
What started as Pherson’s curiosity about those who came before him evolved into an online history museum dating back to the mid-1950’s when the unit came to be. Pherson has done countless interviews and spent countless hours looking through newspaper archives and old photos to capture the people, the dogs and their unique role in the community.
“The K9 unit is such an elite, to me, it’s kinda like the mounted squad or the SWAT team and K9 has its own place in a department,” Pherson says about his pride in the work being done by these teams made up of officers with two and four legs.
“He took so much time to do it, and it’s just a history that wouldn’t be there if he hadn’t done everything that he’s done,” says Jeff Merten, President of the Friends of Richmond K9 nonprofit.
Pherson does not have one particular fond memory from his days on the force. Between the early 1990’s and 2004 when he returned, Pherson worked alongside three dogs and eventually became a Master Trainer of narcotics dogs. All of his memories are special, and he is still making them by helping out today’s K9 unit in every way he can.
Now with the website, Pherson is able to reach more people and share all the good work done by Richmond’s K9 unit.
“It’s great for people to go and see where this unit started and where they’re going in the future,” Merten adds.
In addition to the online museum, one of Pherson’s legacies is a baseball-style card made up of dogs and their handlers that the unit still uses today.