Not even out of high school yet and teen Saurav Gandhi has already made his mark on Sunnyvale’s Department of Public Safety (DPS). The Santa Clara High School junior visited DPS Headquarters at the end of November to donate $6,000 to the department’s K-9 Officers program as well as a plaque in honor of fallen K-9 Officer Jax.
“The summer before my ninth grade, before high school, I took part in a summer [Youth] Leadership Academy with the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety,” said Gandhi. “When I was there, I learned more about one police dog called K-9 Jax. We actually got to meet the K-9s and look at the K-9 program.”
“In 2017, [K-9 Officer Jax] died during a confrontation with a domestic violence suspect. So, he was trying to apprehend the suspect, but then he got stabbed,” continued Gandhi. “When I learned that story, it was very sad. I sort of felt as if I wanted to do something special to honor his memory.”
Gandhi decided to make honoring K-9 Jax his Eagle Scout project for Sunnyvale Troop 443. For the next three years, he worked on making the project a reality.
Gandhi worked closely with Sunnyvale DPS, former Sunnyvale Mayor Tony Spitaleri, and several other community members to honor Jax’s memory. He did it all while confronted with the complications that COVID-19 created.
“I had to alter my project to achieve the same goal, but just through different means. COVID-19 really taught me how to be flexible and how to adapt to changing situations,” said Gandhi. “It also forced me to rethink the strategies for my project. I think that the project that we have now is actually more sustainable and more impactful than just a physical memorial, because not only did we add an event that will go on for many years to come but we also have funding that goes towards the K-9 program and a memorial plaque. These three things, I know they will honor on K-9 Jax and also advocate for the greater appreciation of Sunnyvale K-9s for many years to come.”
The money donated by Gandhi will go to making sure Sunnyvale’s K-9 officers stay healthy. The department is looking into ballistic vests for the K-9 officers as well as heat sensors for K-9 patrol cars.
“We’re so appreciative of his interest in public safety, and really his thoughtfulness in honoring K-9 Jax and the K-9 program,” said Sunnyvale DPS Captain Hank Syu. “The follow-through that he showed to get this memorial plaque completed speaks to his commitment and really caring for the program and the department. So, we’re very appreciative.”
The plaque honoring K-9 Officer Jax will be displayed at DPS Headquarters in a place where all officers can see it.
In addition to donating the memorial plaque for K-9 Jax and the money for the K-9 program, Gandhi also helped bring back Sunnyvale’s Halloween Pet Parade in 2019 in honor of K-9 Jax.
The parade went virtual in 2020, but Gandhi plans to make sure the parade continues virtually or in-person for years to come to make sure K-9 Jax’s memory is honored.