BY ANGELO LYNN
BRANDON — The newest member of the Brandon Police Department is warm, furry, too cute for words — and in the earliest steps of training. At just five months old, Guinness will need another year or more of obedience training before he starts the more serious training to become a certified K-9 dog used to sniff out narcotics and for tracking people.
But first things first; he needs to learn typical good behavioral skills and mature.
Set to do that training is Officer Aidan Alnwick, who, at 24, has been with the department for just over a year and is beyond thrilled to be given the opportunity to serve the department as its dog handler with the K-9 program.
“Being a dog handler is one of the things I really wanted to do in my career, and getting an opportunity to do it so early is just really lucky. I’m very excited and looking forward to working with Guinness,” Alnwick said in a Monday interview.
Alnwick grew up near the Bronx in New York and as a child had a German Shepard for the first 14 years of his life, then the family had other dogs thereafter — a miniature pincher, terrier, two pit bulls — which, as Alnwick says, “pretty much makes me a dog person. I’ve always loved them.”
And Guinness seems to have taken to Alnwick right off the bat. “It’s been an immediate bond,” Alnwick admitted, adding that he “has to assume it’s because it was meant to be!”
Guinness came to the Brandon force just this past Thursday, April 7, by way of Siberia to a German Shepard handling firm in Wolcot, Vt, and from there to Brandon. Local donations raised $3,550 to cover the purchase and start-up necessities and other donations will be used to cover some small first-year expenses that were not covered in the budget.
Upcoming fundraiser for Guinness
Brandon resident Brianna Stevens-Clark will be holding a basket raffle for the Brandon Police Department to help raise more money for its K-9 program. The basket raffle is set for Saturday, April 23 at 11 a.m. at the Brandon American Legion Post #55. “Our hope,” Chief Kachajian said, “is that it will raise some more money for us so that we can have some ‘cushion’ to put aside for any unanticipated costs that might arise that wouldn’t necessarily be covered in our budget.”
Also expenses, such as veterinarian services, have been provided free to the town from Dr. Robin Crossman at Otterside Animal Hospital in Brandon, “which is a huge savings to us and we’re very grateful for that,” said Chief Kachajian, adding that discounted pet food from Blue Seal in Brandon would help keep first-year expenses down as well.
“My intent,” Kachajian said, “is to add a K-9 budget into our general police budget for FY 2023 to cover any expenses (including training) that we may need going forward, such as equipment replacement.”
The goal of the K-9 program at Brandon, the chief explained, was “multi-faceted.”
“I think having a drug-sniffing dog will act as a deterrent in the community to anyone thinking about trying to bring drugs into town,” he said, as one of the first benefits. “Having a dog trained in tracking will help us locate lost, missing, endangered, or wanted people in a more-timely fashion and will act as a “force multiplier” for us since we have a small department and don’t always have enough resources to deploy when we are trying to locate people for whatever the case may be.
“The dog will also be trained in evidence location, such as finding guns that have been discarded by a suspect running through a neighborhood or the woods. Being able to recover items such as a gun used in a crime will obviously help us with prosecuting a case against a suspect, but it will also help us get potentially dangerous items out of the hands of individuals, such as children, that may inadvertently find the gun while walking through the woods or in an around a neighborhood.
“But I think the most important benefit is that having a K-9 in our department gives both the police officers and the community something to get behind. Most people love dogs and having some “Community ownership” of “Our dog,” I think, goes a long way toward building a good relationship between the residents and the police department.
“The dog can also be a great “Ice breaker” between people in the community and the officer(s), especially small children, who just want to come up and pet the dog. We’ve already had some kids stop by the police station to “Meet” Guinness, and they’ve loved him. He is such a gentle and good-natured dog that the kids warmed right up to him.”
That good nature, which compliments a handsome coat of a tannish-brown underbelly and coal-black back, is reflected in his name, Guinness — a good Irish name, Officer Alnwick said of his choice, who is Irish himself and grew up playing the bagpipes and listening to Irish and Scottish folk music.
Alnwick said Guinness is about 40 pounds now (a bit low after his trip from Siberia), but should be about 90-100 pounds when fully mature. His dad, Alnwick said, comes from championship bloodlines and he’s looking forward to the upcoming training.
For now, however, it’s spending a lot of time on basic behavioral issues, and crate time when Alnwick is on patrol — as Guinness isn’t allowed to accompany him on patrol until he’s certified.
“Aiden is very enthusiastic about getting the K-9 program started,” Chief Kachajian said of the newest addition to the team. “I think he and Guinness are going to make a fantastic team. They’ve bonded really quickly and Guinness is extremely smart and has a great temperament.”