Meet Melnic — a fluffy, brown German shepherd who typically spends his days tracking criminals and searching for evidence for the Olympia Police Department.
But in recent days, shoppers might have seen him — or at least photos of him — in downtown Olympia storefronts. In some pictures, Melnic wears a Santa hat or a police hat, and in others he wears a Seattle Seahawks jersey. The dog also is shown interacting with his handler, officer Randy Wilson.
These posters are part of the Where’s Melnic? scavenger hunt, an event designed to foster a good relationship between the Olympia Police Department and the community during the holiday season, department spokeswoman Laura Wohl said.
“The public really enjoys seeing some of our K-9s, and we thought this would be a great way to connect with the community,” Wohl said.
Children can participate by stopping by the police station to pick up a scorecard or by picking one up at a participating business, she explained. There are 14 pictures of Melnic posted in downtown Olympia. If participants find five and turn in their card to the Police Department, they’ll receive a “pawtographed” photo of Melnic.
Participants also will be invited to meet Melnic and hear his story at an upcoming event.
The scavenger hunt began Nov. 30 and will run through the end of the year. Participants began turning in completed scorecards last week, Wohl said.
The hunt is the brainchild of Lt. Paul Lower and Amy Stull, of the department’s community programs division.
Lower said he first thought of the idea while working the fall Arts Walk and looking at maps of downtown.
“We’re always involved with downtown, and we always work the Arts Walk, mostly in a security capacity,” Lower said. “I kept thinking to myself that it sure would be nice if (the Police Department) had its foot in the door for one of these events, if we could do something a little more fun.”
The department began working with the Olympia Downtown Association to gain the support of some businesses and get the ball rolling.
Lower said he also has noticed that people go crazy for information about the department’s two K-9s on social media — that’s how the idea came together.
Melnic’s looks and personality are a great fit for the campaign, Lower explained. The dog, who has worked for the department for three years, is fun, playful and didn’t mind being dressed up for the photo shoot.
“We thought we might get one photo,” Lower said. “But he hung in there for a couple of hours, and we got some great photos.”
“This dog has got a wonderful personality,” he added. “He’s one of those dogs who just wants to play all the time.”