We write columns and stories for a lot of reasons, from trying to hold institutions accountable and maybe provoke some thoughts and taking readers where they don’t get to go.
Here’s one for the ol’ “bet you didn’t know” and, well, “because dogs are involved” file:
In an Arrowhead Stadium tunnel after Pittsburgh ended the Chiefs season with an 18-16 playoff victory in January, Shawnee police chief Rob Moser approached Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger has been a nemesis to the Chiefs: He is 6-1 against them entering their meeting on Sunday at Arrowhead.
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So he might well have been wondering what was coming as Moser told him he had something for the quarterback — who remains polarizing in some circles even seven evidently reformed years after a pattern of boorish behavior (including two allegations of rape) that left him saying he was “committed to improving and showing everyone my true values.”
But with Roethlisberger giving what Moser called his “full attention” and shocking him with how appreciative he seemed, Moser handed him a challenge coin bearing the department’s logo.
It was a token of gratitude for a little-known gift regularly provided around the NFL by the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation: grants for K-9 units of police and fire departments in the cities and surrounding communities of Steelers’ regular-season road games.
In this case, the grant was for $12,250 enabling “Grim,” a Belgian Malinois, to join the department as its first explosives specialist and one of the few in Kansas.
Maybe you’ve seen Grim with partner Ryan Skinner at Allen Fieldhouse, Children’s Mercy Park, Kauffman Stadium, the National World War I Museum And Memorial or any other number of scenes.
The gesture accelerated by years Skinner’s hopes of working with a K-9, with which he spends nine hours a day on the job before taking him home to be with his two other dogs.
“You get very close to these dogs because you’re within a foot (of each other) inside the car all day and they’re there to protect you and you’re there to protect them,” said Skinner, whose equipment now includes keeping a tennis ball tucked inside his vest.
He added, “It’s almost like having a kid.”
It’s the 11th season Roethlisberger’s foundation has distributed the grants for K-9 units around the nation, including an emphasis on service dogs in the Pittsburgh area that taken together add up to more than $1.65 million towards the cause.
The Kansas City area has been the beneficiary of this several times, most recently on Thursday when the foundation in conjunction with The Giving Back fund announced grants to the Bonner Springs and Independence police departments — each of which expressed deep gratitude for the gifts.
On the foundation website, Roethlisberger explains why he’s so invested in this particular cause (as well as with the Make-A-Wish Foundation):
“My dad instilled in me a love and respect for animals,” he writes. “This is a good way to combine that passion with a desire to support the police and fire departments, which deserve all the appropriate resources needed to protect our cities and neighborhoods and allow these brave men and women to arrive home safely.”
This made for a particularly nice twist for Moser, who was born in Butler, Pa., and has remained a lifelong Steelers fan even during his 26 years with the Shawnee police.
His office is adorned in Steelers memorabilia, which leads to some razzing from Chiefs fans — which he is, too, except for when they play Pittsburgh.
“Ah, I get my fair share of it,” he said, laughing and adding, “Nothing’s been defaced yet.”
But, no, the successful application wasn’t contingent on pledging devotion to the Steelers.
“It does not. As far as I know,” he said, smiling and conceding, “Our application might have included a little something in it to the effect of me being a Steelers fan … but you don’t have to swear allegiance.”
Asked what he’d have thought about a dog furnished by the 0-5 Cleveland Browns with its Dawg Pound fan base, Moser laughed and said, “You definitely wouldn’t want to name the drugs ‘end zone,’ because it would never find the end zone.”
More seriously, Moser says he’d have been grateful to get any help he could to fund the department’s third K-9 to go with two dogs trained in drug detection and patrol.
For his part, Skinner, who grew up a Bills fan in the Buffalo area, said he “almost instantaneously” became a fan of the Steelers because of the man who might be called, ahem, the Grim reaper — and not just because he’s been so tough on the Chiefs.