Pups in the Park

Published 12:46 am Wednesday, July 2, 2014

By Stephen Hemelt

LAPLACE — Raj Pannu grew up with animals, saying her family had plenty of cattle and pets during her youth.

It’s a love that continued through her adult life, passing onto her children.

“My daughter has three dotsons,” Pannu said. “My son has one, and I had two but one passed away of old age. We love dogs. It doesn’t matter what breed.”

Pannu said she and her husband are empty nesters and feel their dogs are now their children — she admirers their loyalty.

The longtime love of animals makes Pannu a natural fit for chairwoman of the Rotary Club of LaPlace’s Pups in the Park, which took place Saturday to great fanfare but a slightly smaller crowd than anticipated.

“It could have been better had people not been scared of the rain,” Pannu said. “I think it was pretty successful, and I believe all those that came out really had a good time. We hope to do it bigger and better next year.”

The Rotary Club, according to outgoing president Eliana DeFrancesch, sold T-shirts, water, raffle tickets, soft drinks and cookies during the annual fundraiser, with proceeds split between the club and St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office K-9 Division.

Incoming club president Beverly D. Harris said the event always benefits an animal-themed cause. Additional fundraisers included vendor booth registrations and contests entry fees, which included numerous competitions.

First place winners in the contests were Diamond (cutest dog), Boo Boo (best look alike with owner and most unique), Turbo/Cozette (most talented) and Bentley (best costume).

Perhaps the highlight of the event was provided by the K-9 Division deputies, who showcased their dogs’ skills in narcotics detection, suspect apprehension and discipline.

Lt. Mark Ceravolo said he likes the opportunity events like Saturday’s Pups in the Park present, because it teaches members of the public, especially children, that the officers and their K-9s are nothing to fear.

Ceravolo said the division has a deep roster K-9 personnel, allowing one patrol to be present on all shifts in the parish, serving in capacities from routine patrol to bomb detection specialties.

“These dogs go home with the officers, who have the choice to keep them inside or outside,” Ceravolo said. “I keep mine inside because he will behave better when we goes into houses if he is used to being in one.”

Ceravolo is partnered with Jango. Other K-9 teams include Deputy Cody Malkiewicz and Odeck, Deputy Anthony Cox and Deuce, Lt. Monty Adams and Roy, Deputy Stephen Hefler and Boomer, Deputy Steven Dailey and Ghost and Deputy Michael Dean and Fox.