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Part of the pack

Colonie prepares successor in one-dog canine unit

The Colonie Police Department recently purchased Vader, a 16-month-old German shepherd who will complete patrol, tracking and narcotics training and become the 11th dog in Colonie history to join the K-9 Unit Patrol Division.

The Colonie Police Department recently purchased Vader, a 16-month-old German shepherd who will complete patrol, tracking and narcotics training and become the 11th dog in Colonie history to join the K-9 Unit Patrol Division. Photo by Zan Strumfeld.

— Sixteen-month-old German Sheppard Vader has a two-sided personality. One side is kind, social and friendly. The other is that of a driven attack animal that will sink his teeth into an arm on command.

“It’s like flipping on a light switch,” Colonie Patrolman Jerry Shaw said.

Shaw is a canine handler – currently the only one with the Colonie Police Department. For the past 10 years, Shaw has trained dogs to be an officer’s best friend and to use their noses to assist with searches of vehicles and buildings for narcotics. Two months ago, the Town of Colonie purchased Vader, and once training is completed, he’ll be the 11th dog in the history of the Colonie Police Department to join the K-9 Unit Patrol Division.

Vader is an energetic 65-pound dog originally from Slovakia, but the town purchased him from a breeder in Connecticut for $7,000. That hefty sum is at no cost to the taxpayers, though; criminals actually indirectly purchased the canine through the department’s drug fund. The town pays for the dog’s food and veterinarian costs for the rest of its life.

“Assets we’ve taken from drug dealers, criminals … they basically purchased the dog,” Shaw said. “It works out because the dogs over the years have found drugs and found money. Why not take the things they found and purchase another dog?”

For the past two months, Vader has been working on intensive obedience training and will eventually become certified in New York state for patrol, tracking and narcotics duties. Over the course of training, he’ll learn tasks like basic obedience, building and outdoor area searches, jumping over obstacles and how to search for specific things.

“Tracking is difficult. (It’s a) natural ability for a dog but (I’m) trying to teach them to learn to track specifically a person … not looking for a bunny rabbit. They need to pick up the ground disturbance of somebody’s foot and track into the footprints,” Shaw said.

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