Before Officer Marco Caito and his new partner, Aki, start their patrols this spring, they’ll spend three months learning how to work together.
Last week, the city of Middletown acquired Aki, a 2-year-old long-hair Dutch German Shepherd from Holland. The city spent $8,000 to acquire the dog from Orchard Knoll Kennels out of Raleigh, N.C. The dog will replace Viper, a 7-year-old German Shepherd from Czechoslovakia, who has been retired from patrol duties.
“I have a lot to learn,” said Caito, a seven-year veteran of the Middletown Police Department. “The dog’s got more training than I do so far.”
Aki will be trained — just as the city’s other patrol K9, Gunner — to detect narcotics, said Sgt. Andy Warrick, the police department’s K9 supervisor. Training is conducted at the department’s K9 training facility at the Middletown Regional Airport.
The city police department has had a K9 officer since 1966, he said. The city’s first two dogs — Duke and Rommel — were part of a program started by the citizens of Middletown through donations, Warrick said. VFW and Eagles donated a few thousand dollars each year to the K9 program, he said.
“One of the big emphasis is obedience, controlling the dog,” Warrick said, who was a K9 officer five years ago before his dog Bomber was forced to retire due to a muscle disorder.
The dog will be taught how to detect various types of narcotic odors, including cocaine, heroin, marijuana and Ecstasy.
“The dogs will be trained to pick out these odors,” Warrick said. “They’ll know this is an odor they’re supposed to alert to.”
When a dog detects the smell, it is rewarded with play.
“They love to play,” Warrick said. “Everything we train these dogs, we make it a game. We want them to enjoy it, we want them to be happy. That’s what they work for.”
Viper was trained to detect explosives, and though he has retired from patrol duty, is still assigned to Detective Tim Meehan for explosive detection. Warrick said Viper is often used outside the city, such as when the Secret Service came to Butler County in 2008 and 2012 during the presidential campaigns.
Caito, 32, said one of his career goals was to be a K9 officer.
“I started out in the jail and worked my way up to patrol, and one of my biggest goals when I got into law enforcement was to be a K9 officer,” said Caito, who grew around dogs.
Officer Dennis Jordan, who is Gunner’s handler, and Caito will alternate second- and third-shift duties when Caito and Aki are finished with training. Jordan estimated the K9 patrol is used “probably two or three times a night for narcotic searches.”
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