MERIDEN, Conn. (AP) — As they waited on stage to receive their
diplomas, these graduates didn’t exactly stand at attention.
One slept on the floor.
Another left his tongue hanging out of his mouth.
One fervently sniffed his surroundings.
The behavior was to be expected: the black and yellow Labrador
retrievers make up the 107th class of the Connecticut State Police’s
K-9 training program, ready to sniff out drugs and explosives.
The four dogs graduated from the 10-week training program Thursday.
Two of the dogs — Hali and Adam — will go to Massachusetts State
Police, and two others — Ruby and Badger — will stay in Connecticut.
“It’s a great looking graduating class,” Col. Tim Barry, commander of
the state police, said to the sleek, panting graduates.
The dogs spent weeks training to find explosives or narcotics in
different environments: airports, warehouses, schools, trains, buses,
casinos, business offices, the state Capitol and private homes.
“We basically train them for real-life scenarios,” said the class’
lead instructor Trooper Mark Linhard, whose first class was the 107th.
The training method involves a food-reward system, teaching the dogs
to eat only from the hands of the officers. When a dog properly
locates something, they are rewarded with a handful of food, said
trainer Trooper First Class William Csontos, who handles new K-9
Trooper Edward Peshka, who handles Badger, said there were some rough
spots along the way. The dogs live with their new trainers, and while
Peshka said Badger was a welcome addition, there was some damage.
“There are some stuffed animals missing a few ears, and I lost a
remote control,” he said, laughing, as his 5-year-old son, Edward,
hugged the dog lying on the floor.
The trainers, state police officials and families of the dogs looked
on proudly as the dogs sat onstage Thursday. But also in the audience
were their original owners, known as the “puppy people” to state
Many of the dogs provided to state police come to the K-9 program
from Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a New York-based organization that
trains guide dogs. Before they go to that organization, they are
raised by families throughout the country.
Glynis and Rick Tanner of Carrboro, N.C., raised black Lab Badger
from the time he was a puppy. They traveled to Connecticut for the
graduation ceremony Thursday, and rapidly snapped pictures of the
event with a digital camera.
As a graduation present, they brought a “baby book” of puppy pictures
and one of the dog’s favorite toys: a jingle ball.
“From the time he was a puppy, his favorite game was hide and seek. I
think this is his destiny,” Glynis Tanner said. “It was very
difficult to give him up, but he would have been very unhappy as a
Cindy Menegay and her husband, John Yannet, of Newtown, raised yellow
Lab Adam, who will join Trooper Brian Moran with the Massachusetts
State Police. They also brought a graduation present: a fuzzy,
squeaky dog bone for Adam to chew.
She said it was hard to give him up, but she was proud.
“He’s promised to put me on his mailing list, and keep me apprised of
their adventures together,” she said, after exchanging addresses with
Moran before he left.
The dogs will go right to work. For sleepy Ruby, who will join Troop
W at Bradley International Airport, it meant her nap would soon end.
“She starts tonight,” Csontos said, glancing quizzically at the
sleeping dog. “She’s just resting. This isn’t typical Ruby.”