The city of Bayport is going to the dogs.

One dog, actually.

Bayport police officials have raised enough money from donations to start a K-9 unit.

It's been more than a year since Police Chief Laura Eastman received the go-ahead from the City Council to seek contributions from businesses and individuals to purchase a trained police dog.

To date, the department has received $10,000 in donations, she said.

One of the department's biggest supporters has been David Levy, owner of the pet food company known as Zeus & Co. Though the business is based in Chicago, Levy lives in Bayport.

His dog, Zeus, died earlier this year and he wanted to help fund the K-9 unit in memory of his faithful friend, Eastman said. Levy also understood the value of a police dog, having been a police officer himself in Chicago, she added.

Bayport police plan to use the dog in drug searches and to help track missing persons and escaped prisoners.

Jay Jackson, a nine-year veteran on the force with previous experience working with Washington County authorities on narcotics cases, will serve as the dog's handler. The force consists of five full-time officers, four part-time and some volunteer reserves.

Eastman says the dog's biggest role, however, will be as an ambassador helping to bond the community with the police department.

The dog will appear at public events such as Derby Days, the annual community festival, and at the local elementary school and the retirement home.

Bayport police plan to purchase the animal from Performance Kennels Inc. The Buffalo, Minn.-based company specializes in training and selling police dogs.

Levy has offered to donate a lifetime supply of dog food to the Bayport police force's new canine officer. In addition, Dr. Brenda Bray, a veterinarian from nearby Hudson, Wis., has volunteered to sponsor the dog's medical care.

Eastman said she expects to have the canine officer by March.

There's been no decision yet on what kind of dog will join Bayport's police force, but the chief says it will be a fairly large dog with a strong "play drive."

Allie Shah • 651-298-1550