PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -

Three years ago Palm Springs Police K-9, Ike, chased down a suspect to protect his fellow officers, at the cost of his own life.

Man's best friend is one of law enforcement's most powerful tools.

"They're a piece of equipment. If you start looking at what a dog can do compared to an officer: the time they save, their abilities with their sense of smell, there's so many advantages and also it minimizes and helps reduce the danger the officer is exposed to," said Sgt. Jon Cabrera of the Palm Springs Police Department.

But the department's K-9 unit is short one patrol dog.

"To be one dog short is to be one officer short," said Ann Woods, who attended the 4th Annual Run for Ike in Palm Springs.

"What people don't realize is that all the dogs in the history of this department's K-9 unit were purchased through donations," Cabrera said.

And that's exactly the idea behind "Run for Ike," the annual 5K run/walk that not only pays tribute to service dogs but helps raise funds to buy more highly-trained crime stoppers.

"The average dog right now is between $14,000 and $16,000 with the officer training that's involved," Cabrera said.

But the job they do helping police catch the bad guys will always remain priceless.

"Police dogs are heroes. They go where men fear to tread and they deserve every inch of our support," Woods said.