Pat McDonald really didn't mind her husband Larry suggesting a detour to Baltimore after their honeymoon at Niagra Falls. He wanted to see some dogs, he said. Police dogs.
"It was still a good honeymoon," she said.
It turned out to be a good visit for St. Paul, too, as what McDonald learned would spark the formation of the St. Paul Police K9 unit in 1958, the second full-time unit in the country after Baltimore. On Monday, McDonald, a retired police lieutenant, retired officer Edward Buehlman and the late Bill Swiger were honored as the unit's three original human members at the unveling of a new display in the lobby of police headquarters. Swiger died in 1993.
The officers' original canine partners -- Pal, Baron and Champ -- were remembered as well by the nearly 100 people, including current and former K9 officers, packed into the lobby. Police Chief Thomas Smith presented certificates and medals to McDonald and Buehlman for their work in researching, developing and promoting the unit, which now numbers 28 teams and is one of the largest in the country.
Since its inception, the unit has won multiple honors and competitions, including the National Field Trials this year. It was the eighth time the unit has won that championship.
"They are not 'Kind of the Best.' Not 'a little bit of the best.'" Smith said. "Without a doubt, they are the best K9 unit in the United States."
Buehlman remembered slightly more modest beginnings. He recounted the story of how McDonald hatched the idea: Once, while on stakeout during a cold day in Hidden Falls Park, the partners were struggling to keep warm, despite wearing their long police coats.
McDonald, Buehlman said, was struck with a thought.
"What the hell do we do if we have to jump a fence?" he said to laughter. "That's how it started."