WAYNE- On Wednesday, Passaic County Sheriff Richard H. Berdnik held a seminar on K-9 first aid sponsored by the Onyx and Breezy Foundation, a non-profit that has been a strong supporter of the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office’s K-9 unit for the past several years.

“The issue of K-9 safety is a major focus of the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office,” said Berdnik. “This seminar touches on all the essentials of K-9 first aid and will help the K-9 handlers address emergent health issues.”

Mark and Wanda Shefts are the husband and wife founders of the Onyx and Breezy foundation named for their two labs who died seven weeks apart, one from old age and one from cancer.

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“We help many different animal organizations throughout the country, and individuals with emergency medical care when there is hardship.”

The Shefts dedicated the seminar to the memory of K-9 Leo, an officer with the Passaic County Sheriff’s department. “I’ve been with the K-9 unit for eighteen years and Leo was the first officer we lost while working,” said Sergeant Jamie Tangorra.

The Sheriff’s department, in a show of supreme respect, gave Leo a funeral with full honors in April of this year. 

“The media sometimes want to only show the aggressive side of these K-9 units,” continued Tangorra, “but every dog on our unit, whether they are patrol dogs or a specialty dog, they are all social, they can be pet and go home to be a part of our families.”

Tangorra spoke next to his partner, Demi an energetic and friendly black lab who is a bomb dog. “All our dogs go home and live with their handlers. Most of the handlers have kids and the dogs are part of their daily lives. When they’re home, they know they’re home. When they see us in our street clothes, they know their job is done and they get to be a dog at home.”

“I think a seminar like this is so important because these dogs risk their lives for us every day, and the least we can do is help them be safer,” said Mark Shefts. His wife, Wanda echoed his sentiments: “These babies put themselves out there for all of us, so we owe them something.”

Sandi Lazzara, Passaic County Freeholder Deputy Director attended the seminar and spoke about how the connection was created between the foundation and the sheriff’s department.

“We met the Onyx and Breezy foundation at one of our Paws in the Park fundraising events which we used to raise money to support our K-9 units. At one event, the Shefts donated both a couple of bullet proof and puncture proof vests for the dogs and cooling mats for the patrol cars,” said Lazarra. “So, when we lost K-9 Leo to bloat, Pat Ring from the Passaic County Senior Services Department contacted Wanda and from there the Onyx and Breezy Foundation created this entire event.”

Two dozen police K-9 teams, including Sheriff’s Officers from Essex, Hudson and Passaic Counties and several local agencies from Monmouth County, were present and taught how to recognize the signs and symptoms of potential deadly K-9 emergencies.

Another focus of the class will be to teach K-9 handlers how to stabilize and administer CPR to their K-9 partners, and how to properly transport the K-9 to the animal hospital in the event of a traumatic injury.

“I want to commend Wanda and Mark Shefts, and the entire Onyx and Breezy Foundation for the work they do to not only protect animals, but to support law enforcement in K-9 related activities," said Berdnik.