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The Kelso Police Department expects to have its first K-9 program by the spring, prodded by a private donation that will cover nearly a third of the startup costs, Police Chief Darr Kirk announced to the City Council Tuesday night.

The city has already received a $10,000 donation from a Kelso business family, and the police department is accepting donations to make up the remaining $25,000. Kelso expects to have a dog on board by the spring, Kirk said.

Eric Brudi told The Daily News Wednesday that he and his wife, Amy, donated the money because he has wanted Kelso to have a K-9 program for at least a couple years.

“I just really appreciate what a tremendous group of people (Kelso police) are,” Brudi said. “We love having the opportunity to support our community in such a way. It’s always been a dream of mine. If we can give a K-9 for the police force, that just was an exciting thing.”

Brudi’s parents were the long-time owners of Brudi Equipment in Kelso. Eric Brudi is a financial adviser with Edward Jones in Kelso. His four children attended Kelso High School.

They are a dog family, Brudi said. They have a Jack Russell terrier and golden retriever named Calvin and Hobbes.

“I see the value in K-9s and how they help in so many different ways,” he said. “They’re such a wonderful tool, and I just want our police force to be able to have a tool like that.”

Chief Kirk said Kelso has never had a police dog program. The Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office and Longview Police Department each have a program. Kelso’s dog will be the fourth K-9 in the area.

“It’s not a cheap program to start, but we think it’s worth it,” Kirk said. “We’ve had a lot of really high profile dangerous calls where we could have used another dog in the county. Longview and the county have been very generous (about helping us). We’d like to contribute to that program countywide.”

Search dogs are helpful for high-risk calls, building searches and outdoor searches, Kirk said.

They also are popular within the community. Organizations are already requesting presentations with the K-9, he said.

Brudi’s excitement about the program was evident Wednesday morning.

“Our goal is to hopefully inspire other people to be active in the community and be passionate about our community,” he said. “We’re super excited. It’s going to be fun.”

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