Valhalla’s Forge, helps to repair City of Portsmouth, VA’s K-9 Complex and dedicate new memorial

James Hatch (Standing with Red Hat) founder of and James Hintzke (standing far right) and artisans of Valhalla’s Forge presented officers of the Portsmouth Police Department’s K-9 Unit a memorial made of marble and steel to denote the sacrifice of police K-9s at the department’s K-9 complex on April 28.

Photo by Justin K. Thomas.

By Justin K. Thomas

April 30, 2018

Tradespeople, volunteers and off-duty police officers from around the Hampton Roads, VA region took time out of their day on April 28 for a single purpose; To give back to the Portsmouth Police Department by helping to repair and rebuild training obstacles used by department’s K-9 Unit.

Off-duty Portsmouth, VA police officers like Randy Pierce said that it’s a great occasion to do some good and to allow the community to get to know the officers of their department better.

“I believe that this is a wonderful opportunity for the community to come out and get to know us,” Pierce said. “We have a ton of people out here today that are giving it their ‘all.’ Some with building experience and some that do not have building experience. And that’s fine. The fact that they are taking time out of their day to come help us complete this task says a lot about the community and its connection to their police department.”

An artist’s rendition of a possible Roman Praefectus Castrorum handling one of the Legions’ cohort dogs prior to a military skirmish.

Courtesy of Dream Big

The earliest recorded use of canines in combat or helping to enforce laws was by the Alyattes of Lydia against the Cimmerians around 600 B.C. Dogs were also used extensively by the Romans to guard the living quarters of soldiers and officers and to fight along-side advancing infantries, according to

The use of dogs on the ancient battlefields are just as meaningful to police departments today.

Those uses are to minimize the dangers to the lives of officers involved while maximizing the agency’s ability to locate and subdue a potentially hostile subject in areas deemed too unsafe for human officers, said Larry Faulkner, a retired Dayton, Ohio police Major.

Most recently, K-9 Officer Bane, of the Phoenix, Arizona Police Department was killed in the line of duty while attempting to subdue a suspect. Bane's effort saved the life of the officers involved with the pursuit.

James Hatch, the founder of Spike's K9 Fund and retired U.S. Navy SEAL, approached James "Jimmy" Hintzke, the chief executive officer of Valhalla's Forge LLC, a custom metal and woodworking company for a collaborative effort to honor the working dog community.

Hatch is no stranger to working K-9s and their abilities. In addition to his SEAL duties, he served as Naval Special Warfare Dog Handler if and when mission parameters deemed it so on several assignments, according to Hatch.

On two separate combat missions, two military working dogs, Spike and Remco respectively saved his life.

During the second mission, Hatch was wounded during an exchange of small-arms fire with enemy personnel. Alongside Hatch returning fire was an armed U.S. Navy Master-At-Arms dog handler and his K-9, Remco, Hatch said.

(Left) U.S. Navy SEAL James Hatch and his military working dog take a photo post-mission. (Right) As a Navy SEAL on several deployments, Hatch’s life was regularly spared by K-9s. On Hatch’s final deployment, he was critically wounded and his life was spared by a K-9 by the name of Remco. Hatch is now on a mission to care for, preserve and train military working dogs.

Photos courtesy of James Hatch.

While Remco was doing as he was trained to do; standing and protecting the area between Hatch and the Master-At-Arms as they returned fire, Remco was shot twice in the skull, killing him instantaneously, said Hatch.

"I took a round [bullet] to the leg, and Remco’s actions saved our lives that night," Hatch said. "He saved my life, and I will never forget that."

According to Hatch, the way in which Remco died, left a lasting affect on him.

Once States-side, with his injuries precluding him from being operational, Hatch decided to retire from the Navy, he said.

“After leaving the service, I was a little confused about what I wanted to do,” Hatch said. “I was going through some issues. At one point I was contemplating suicide as a means to ease the pain. Cops came to my home [I had friends that were concerned for my safety and called them] and the police officers who had a lot of other options available, got me to the hospital and I started receiving the help I needed.”

Since getting help, Hatch said that he wanted to give back to the people who saved his life.

“I wanted to give back to the people who helped me,” Hatch said. “So, I talked to the Norfolk Police Department (NPD) and asked if I could help them and took me in and let me help out where they thought I could help the most.” Which turned out to be with their dogs because their K-9s are similar to the ones I’ve worked with in the Navy.”

However, while helping at the NPD, they had one dog that needed medical attention, said Hatch. But, funds weren’t available. So, with the use of social media and charity, we got the dog help in North Carolina, and he’s doing quite well since then, according to Hatch.

“Using the marketing tools associated with social media got me thinking,” Hatch said. “And that’s where originated. A lot of people love working dogs. They want them to have the best gear and training available. To date, has helped nearly 600 K-9s across 44 states. That’s not a small feat by any means.”

As to the future of, Hatch said that every dog that goes out and puts itself on the line alongside its human counterpart would be taken care of no matter what.

“Every dog that goes out to serve the public in whatever capacity needs to be equipped with the best material to help them do their jobs,” said Hatch. “And once it’s time for them to retire from service whether that be from a medical condition or old age we don’t 'throw them away.' SpikesK9Fund finds a way to ensure that the rest of their days are comfortable and full of happiness.”

Fellow retired ‘Frogmen’ James "Jimmy" Hintzke (left) CEO of Valhalla’s Forge, James Hatch, founder of SpikesK9Fund and 'Mina' pose for a group photo during an April 28 refurbishing of the Portsmouth VA police department’s K-9 Agility and Obstacle Complex.

Photo by Justin K. Thomas

Hatch isn’t the only person that knows the capabilities of military or police working dogs.

Hintzke, a fellow retired SEAL with multiple combat tours throughout the world said that it’s a privilege to create a memorial that recognizes the sacrifices of K-9s.

“For me, it’s an honor to memorialize those [human or animal] who’ve gone above and beyond the call of service to their nation and community,” Hintzke said. “I know first-hand the capabilities of working dogs. And they are an incredible asset to have no matter what.”

Hintzke said that it was a little tricky finding the right way of celebrating the history of the city’s K-9 officers, but he and his High-Performance Team (HPT) of artisans came up with an agreed upon design.

"Anyone can come up with a design," he said. "But here at Valhalla's Forge, every time we receive a job request, we go above what's minimally asked and craft a piece the customer will be more than happy with when they will be more than happy with when they receive it. And I certainly know my artisans captured that spirit."

Caelan Connors, a member of Valhalla's Forge's High-Performance Team shows off the finished plaque that was presented to the Portsmouth, Virginia Police Department's K-9 Memorial.

Photo by Justin K. Thomas.

Caelan Connors, one of the leading participants who helped to design and create the memorial said he was thrilled with the outcome.

"I'm thrilled to be a part of a job that recognizes police K-9's," Connors said. "In my opinion, they are just as important as the police officers who also their lives on the line to protect the community."