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Volunteer Adds Mounted Patrol To OPD Ranks

POSTED December 22, 2010 7:37 a.m.
There’s a new police officer on the streets, his name is Lobo — and he’s not going to cost the City of Oakdale a dime.
That’s because Lobo is a gelding quarter horse, owned by reserve officer Joe Cruz, and Cruz has assumed all expenses related to owning a patrol horse.
Why?
Because, in Cruz’ own words, he did it for the love of being on horseback and the love of police work.
“When I joined the Oakdale Police Department three years ago, I felt they had something missing being that they were the Cowboy Capital of the World and did not have a horse on the police department,” Cruz said.
He found Lobo unexpectedly while driving the back roads of Livermore. Lobo was among a group of rescue horses, standing on a hill. Cruz felt an immediate connection and asked if he was for sale. Without having ridden Lobo even once, Cruz purchased the older red roan. Lobo had suffered from a bad owner before he was rescued and he had hoof problems, not to mention he was very underweight, but none of that mattered. Cruz knew he was the one.
Dr. Craig Brooks of Taylor Vet Hospital in Turlock determined Lobo was approximately 10 to 12 years old but in spite of his ordeal, in relatively good health.
A month later Lobo came to Modesto with Cruz and as Cruz had suspected, Lobo turned out to be a great horse.
“When I got him I consulted with Sgt. Tim Helton of the Modesto Police Department and he said ‘Put a lot of hours riding the horse and exposing him to all types of situations.’ After I put about 300 hours on him Sgt. Helton rode him and felt he was good enough to go to mounted patrol school. Lobo and I attended that school in October at the Sacramento County Sheriff Mounted Patrol School in Rancho Murrieta.
“Without the help of the Modesto Police Equestrian Officers I could not have been here today,” Cruz shared.
The Old Fashioned Downtown Christmas was Lobo’s first official gig in Oakdale and although he was restless for the first hour, he settled and did very well, Cruz said.
“I handed out over 100 Tootsie Pops and answered endless questions. His shining moment came when the owner of the frame shop brought me a lost child and Lobo and I walked through the crowd with the child walking alongside until we found her parents.”
For Cruz the opportunity to help the citizens as well as the police department during an economic crisis is well worth any additional expense he may incur from owning a working police mount.
“Lobo is my pet so the cost of him playing an extra role as a patrol horse is minimal. If Oakdale did not want to hire him he still would be my personal saddle horse,” Cruz said, adding, “I see police departments all over cutting programs and this is my way to give back to the city. I really have not even calculated the extra expense.”
In addition to special events, Lobo will be used to patrol the river area to help flush out transients and trespassers that generally hide in the bracken along the riverbank. He will provide security at the Rodeo parade and Chocolate Festival.
“He will be used for public relations but he is a fully qualified police horse. His saddlebags are filled with candy for the kids at all times,” Cruz said.
The owner of a specialty gas appliance and propane business, Cruz and his wife own another horse and take care of another for his father.
“This also speaks highly for rescue animals the world over,” Cruz said. “There are so many wonderful animals that need homes.”
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