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Department of Public Safety mourns loss of K9 Zarah


At the University of Utah Department of Public Safety, we know why all dogs go to heaven.

With very heavy hearts, we announce the unexpected passing of our much-loved K9, Zarah, on Wednesday, February 8th after a brief illness. We send our sincere condolences to both of her trainers, Matt Feltenberger and Jason Jarvie.

Though she didn’t have any pedigree at all, let alone a fancy one, and she wasn’t the youngest working dog at around nine years old, Zarah taught all of us about the importance of attitude and determination.

Because of the intensely physical nature of searching for explosives over large areas like arenas and stadiums, dogs normally go on short deployments. “Zarah had the ability to be super effective through very long deployments and had a ton of stamina despite her age,” said her most recent handler, Officer Jason Jarvie. “With her I learned about endurance, about what’s possible with true passion for the work.”

Zarah found an ideal partnership with Jarvie, whom she joined in the summer of 2021. He had an amazing connection with her and was able to get her to do things that no one else could.

In her four years as a bomb dog for University Police, Zarah cleared venues for all major sporting events and helped local police departments on a smaller scale after bomb threats.  She worked NBA games and the Iron Man World Championships in St. George. Every job was motivated solely by a tennis ball.

Yet, as much as she loved to work, Zarah’s playful nature could be seen in her mornings spent pouncing through and attacking the snow while Jarvie shoveled the driveway, or waiting for his oldest daughter to throw sticks for her. “She would go up to my daughter and just howl until she threw a stick. She trained my daughter like that.”

Zarah was all in for relaxation too. “She’s a boulder,” said Jarvie. “She’ll just lay there completely still and rest.”

Officers always knew when Zarah was in the building because of her signature bark-howl. Her hound DNA was evident as she bayed repeatedly to encourage timely reward or show excitement for work or play.

“She was just an awesome dog,” said Patrol Lieutenant Rich Whittaker, who calls himself ‘Zarah’s favorite uncle.’ “She had such a sweet temperament, loved working, loved people, was never threatening. You really couldn’t ask for a better dog.”

Rest in peace, Zarah. We hope heaven is full of tennis balls, soft beds, and all the treats you can eat. Thank you for your grit and your great love for protecting people. You were a good gal.

The Department is currently working to build a four-dog team for their K9 unit. Each dog will partner with an officer with whom they will live and work.