Local man steps in to finish Special Agent Walter’s K9 training


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — July 27th marks three months since the death of Virginia State Police Special Agent Mike Walter. He was shot and killed on duty in Richmond’s Mosby Court.

Since he passed away, the community has rallied around his family. Joe Zitzelberger is one of those people who wanted to help.

He owns ‘Off Leash K9 Training’ in Richmond and just spent 13 days with the Walter family’s new puppy, Lilly. Mike Walter was in the early stages of training the dog when he passed away.

Someone with the Metro Richmond Police Emerald Society reached out to Zitzelberger for help.

“Asking me if I would personally finish the training that Mike started with Lilly and that’s all I needed to hear,” Zitzelberger explained.

He has trained dogs for actor Ryan Reynolds and players for the Washington Nationals and Washington Capitals, but Zitzelberger says this was his most important assignment. His father and brother were both cops.

“So it hit home, you know?” he said. “And here’s a guy that put his life on the line every day to protect families like mine and it was the absolute least I could do.”

Zitzelberger taught 9-year-old Mason Walter the commands for his puppy’s new tricks. Mason was thrilled to be bringing Lilly home.

“I’ll be really happy,” Mason said. “My sister and my brother will be happy. Zeus and Marley will be happy too to see her back.”

“He really enjoyed giving the commands to Lilly this morning,” Zitzelberger added. “So I know for a fact that he’s going to take her home and and distract himself with obedience with Lilly.”

Even though Lilly learned a lot over the past two weeks, Mason says Lilly is going to get one more lesson as soon as they get home.

“Try to teach her how to go up our play set,” declares Mason.

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