ELPD conducts K-9 demonstration for families at Moonlight Film Festival
On Thursday, families sat on picnic blankets and lawn chairs at Valley Court Park in East Lansing to watch "Max," a movie about a Marine service dog who is adopted by his deceased owner’s family after becoming too traumatized to continue working. This viewing was part of the City of East Lansing’s annual Moonlight Film Festival, a summer outdoor film series that is free to the public.
Heather Surface, event coordinator for the City of East Lansing, has planned out different family-friendly activities with some sort of connection to each week’s movie. Since this week’s movie was about a service dog, Surface asked ELPD to conduct a K-9 demonstration to families one hour before the movie would start.
“The kids seemed really into it, and the adults were more engaged than I thought they were going to be,” Surface said. “I think the K-9 unit is pretty unique– It’s really cool that they were able to share that with the community.”
Officers Erich Vedder and Justin Horst, who are both K-9 handlers for East Lansing Police, volunteered to speak at the Moonlight Film Festival. For the demonstration, they brought in Ares and Diesel, two male German Shepherds who are dual purpose explosive and patrol service dogs. Ares and Diesel showed off some tricks, while Vedder and Horst explained their roles for police and the community. Diesel is a seven-and-a-half-year veteran of East Lansing Police, while Ares has only been working for two years.
“We’ve found that the public really likes to know what the police dogs can do and what a valuable service they are,” Vedder said. “By going into schools and doing demonstrations for the kids at various events, it helps build community relations."
Deja Sigears and her six-year-old daughter Angelina Sigears-Garcia are from Fayetteville, Ark. and were in town visiting Sigears' mother Angela Lipsey. While searching for family-friendly activities to do while her daughter and granddaughter were visiting, Lipsey learned about the Moonlight Film Festival from Facebook.
Sigears said she thought the K-9 demonstration was interesting and a good opportunity for kids to come out and experience police dogs. Sigears-Garcia, in particular, is afraid of dogs, so it was a nice surprise for Sigears that her daughter wanted to pet Diesel.
“She felt safe, and I thought that was kind of awesome,” Sigears said. “It’s going to help her little phobia with petting dogs.”
Sigears-Garcia expressed the same sentiment.
“He was nice when I pet him, but I’m still just a little scared of dogs,” Sigears-Garcia said.
Vedder said people tend to show heavy interest and ask a lot of questions during K-9 demonstrations. He estimates East Lansing Police does about 20 to 30 K-9 demonstrations throughout the community every year.
East Lansing Police typically has about four dogs on the force at any given time, but it currently has five. Three dogs, including Diesel, will retire at the end of the year, leaving the force short two dogs.
Surface said doing another K-9 demonstration in a different setting in the near future is a possibility, but she likes to try different themes and educational activities for families so they can have a variety of new experiences. She also said she hopes these kinds of activities will give East Lansing residents something unique they can be proud of in their city.
“This movie series, and a lot of other events, have been going on for many years, so people who were kids when they (first) came to these events are starting to bring their own kids to them,” Surface said. “It’s just a fun community event.”
The Moonlight Film Festival will continue every Thursday night this summer until Aug. 11 at Valley Court Park, with the one exception being next Thursday, July 21, where the movie, The Rookie, will be screened at the East Lansing Softball Complex. For next week’s activity, the East Lansing Family Aquatic Center will stay open until 9:30 p.m.
Every week, pizza and Pokee Stix can be purchased at the GoombaS food tent located on site. In July, the movies will start at 9:30 p.m., but will start earlier in August at 9 p.m. Pre-movie activities start at 7 p.m.