The holiday season came early this year for Shadow, the Pickerington Police Department's canine unit patrol dog.

The holiday season came early this year for Shadow, the Pickerington Police Department's canine unit patrol dog.

Thanks to a donation from Pickerington Petland, Shadow, a 5 1/2-year-old Dutch Shepherd, won't have to worry where his next meal comes from for at least a year and possibly longer.

Petland Manager Stefan Weirich has donated two bags of premium "Merrick" dog food a month to the Pickerington Police Department so Shadow will be well-nourished and ready for action in helping to keep the city safe.

Pickerington City Council unanimously accepted the donation at its October 1 meeting.

"(The donation is) something I've wanted to do to reach out and help the police station," Weirich said.

"None of us would be here without their help," he said.

Pickerington Police Chief Mike Taylor said he is appreciative of Petland's generosity.

"I am very pleased and grateful that Petland would make such a gracious offer," Taylor said.

"It certainly helps the department financially," he said.

"Shadow is a vital part of the team at the police department," Taylor said. "The show of support from Petland and other businesses who made the canine program happen is greatly appreciated."

Officer James Gallagher said Shadow usually consumes two large bags of food per month, therefore Petland's donation is exactly on point.

He said having Petland provide Shadow's meals also frees up the department to direct its resources elsewhere.

"It takes it off our financial situation," Gallagher. We can spend that money on (veterinary) care and equipment. This donation really helps out," he said.

Gallagher is Shadow's handler but the relationship goes far beyond simply a working relationship. Shadow is part of the family, especially since the dog lives at home with Gallagher, who said his two boys even "get bent out of shape" when he and Shadow have to leave for work each day.

Gallagher and Shadow are also partners on the beat.

"(Shadow) is basically another patrol officer in the city," Gallagher said.

"He rides around with me all day."

Gallagher said in addition to patrolling, Shadow serves an important function in going to Pickerington schools once a week to sniff out illegal contraband students might have.

"He's what they call a 'dual-purpose' patrol dog," said Gallagher, meaning Shadow can not only detect drugs and track contraband such as weapons but "he can protect me if he has to."

Once a week both Gallagher and Shadow undertake intensive training to stay current on protocols and procedure as well as to remain certified.

The duo also just procured a new police vehicle, a Chevrolet Caprice, in which to fight crime.

"It has a special insert in the back for (Shadow) and a canine heat protection system where if the temperature gets above 80 degrees the fan kicks on and the windows open," Gallagher said.

"The insert is all metal. It raises the platform up so (Shadow) has a flat surface.

"It also keeps him from eating the car," Gallagher said.