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K-9 memorial dedicated
The Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department unveiled a new memorial Friday dedicated to their four-legged partners.

The K-9 Memorial pays tribute to the 21 canines that have passed after years of serving the sheriff's department. No canine at the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department has died in the line of duty.

"I'm very proud of the Sheriffs' K-9 Team", said Sheriff Adam Christianson, "Their service to the community is commendable and we appreciate the team memorializing that service."

The sheriff's department K-9 unit first began in 1981, with just two dogs. It now boasts eight patrol service canines and four narcotic detection canines.

The idea of constructing a monument started in 2006, after Deputy Barry Ballance had to put his canine partner, Pepa, down because of cancer.

What began as a small project grew with a donation from Gary Baird, of the Empire Sportsmen Club. Ballance took the project to Stone Bella for a design and they came back with a much bigger and grander memorial than Ballance said the team was expecting. It also came back at double the price, but the team didn't have to worry about the added expense. The Bradbury family, which owns Stone Bella, agreed to donate the funds to cover the additional expenses.

The sheriff's department debuted the final project Friday - a 7,000 pound black granite memorial topped with a full-size bronzed statue of a German Shepherd, modeled after Axel, one of the department's canines.

"This has been a long time in the making," Ballance said. "We needed something to honor our canines."

On Saturday the K-9 Unit hosted the Western States Police Canine Association trials for the second time. The K-9 Trials wereheld at the Ray Simon Regional Criminal Justice Training Center at 3805 Cornucopia Way in Ceres. K-9 Officers and their canine partners from around the region competed in areas of agility, protection, obedience and searching for drugs and suspects.