A dog may be man's best friend, but canines apparently can count on at least one tiger in a time of need.

Storm, the mascot of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Fairfield Police Chief Gary MacNamara during a press conference to announce the hockey team would assist financially toward the department's goal of establishing a K-9 unit.

"The addition of a K-9 unit would go a long way to further the mission of the department," MacNamara said.

When the Sound Tigers and the Manchester Monarchs face off in an American Hockey League game March 19, a percentage of each ticket sold will be donated to the K-9 cause.

Although a figure was not disclosed, the department is about 55 percent of the way toward its goal of funding the K-9 unit for five years.

Sound Tigers' executive Daniel Travis said those buying tickets would not only see a professional hockey game and help the police, but also receive a free child's pass to the Beardsley Zoo and coupons for discounts at Pure Hockey, the Norwalk hockey equipment store.

The department honor guard will present the flag before the national anthem and uniformed officers will participate in various events throughout the

evening, including the chuck-a-puck contest during one of the intermissions.

Officer Kevin Wells, who attended Tuesday's press conference, is one of eight men who have applied to be the department's K-9 handler. Wells grew up with dogs and has wanted to be a K-9 officer for a long time. Before he applied to the department 12 years ago, he nearly walked away because it lacked a K-9 unit.

Wells said a police K-9 would be a great asset to the town.

"Not only are [dogs] good for tracking a suspect and locating missing people, but [they are] also good for public relations. It builds community relations," he said. "People come up and ask you questions about the dog."

MacNamara said a K-9 unit would become integrated with all department operations as opposed to calling another department for K-9 assistance in a crisis.

Fairfield police have had to let drug suspects go because

K-9 officers from other towns who were called in to help either didn't arrive on time or were diverted, officials said.

A few weeks ago, a Bridgeport K-9 officer was en route to Home Depot to assist in a drug investigation, but had to turn around and return to Bridgeport on a burglary. A few days ago, a Darien officer was on his way to Fairfield when he was called back by his own department.

"Those are just two recent examples of when Fairfield would have benefitted from having a K-9 in-house," said Sgt. Suzanne Lussier, a department spokeswoman and a driving force behind the K-9 fundraising campaign. "We can no longer rely on other agencies, and it's unfair to expect them to do the work we are responsible for."

If the K-9 unit is formed, a selection committee of six officers -- three from Fairfield and three K-9 trainers from other agencies -- would pick an officer best suited to be the handler. The department hopes to have a dog and handler in place by summer.