The s canine unit is now official, with Officer Mauro Piroli and the German Shepherd Chase on duty 24/7.
Piroli and Chase completed a 15-month training session in mid-July and Piroli travels with Chase in a squad car that has been equipped to carry a dog with a screen car safe container in the back seat and a temperature gauge that detects high temperatures and automatically opens windows.
Piroli conducted his first public presentation of Chase Thursday morning at the , where 15 campers at the
Movin’ & Groovin’ program sponsored by North Branford Public Schools witnessed Paroli and Chase on a field, where Piroli commanded Chase to retrieve a tennis ball, chew a tug and jump over a fence.
“We want the kids to know that Chase and the officer are here to protect them,” said Lieutenant David D’Ancicco, who supervises the canine program. “We’re trying to bridge the gap for hesitant kids.”
Chase has been trained to trail and track humans and can assist with searches for criminals or lost children. In September, he will attend a two- to four-week narcotics detection program, which will enable him to sniff for drugs.
Chase has been trained to follow Piroli’s commands in Italian and English. Piroli uses Italian to avoid Chase responding to English words he might use to apprehend a criminal, such as “Get down” or “Stop.” “A terra” means down and “andiamo” means heel.
“He’s vocal when he has to be,” Piroli said. “He’s vocal during building searches and he’ll bark to let me know what he finds. He’s trained very well and listens to what I say. Repetition is the key to training.”
The canine unit was started to assist the police department, which has 22 members.
“He does what staff officers can’t do and he’s a backup for Officer Piroli,” D’Ancicco said.
The canine unit comes to the police department free of charge as the Northford Women’s Club raised almost $15,000 to pay for Chase and the equipment for the squad car. Efrin Osario, a local veterinarian, donates his services, which includes veterinary care and canine insurance and Wellness Dog Food provides free dog food, which Chase eats twice a day to maintain his sleek physique. He weighs 63 pounds.
“He’s agile, the perfect weight and runs fast,” Piroli said.
D’Ancicco expects Chase to work on the force for 10 years before retiring.
“It’s tough to start new programs in these economic times,” D’Ancicco said. "But with the support of the sponsors, there was no charge to the police department, allowing Piroli and Chase to work as an effective team."