CALAIS, Maine — The K-9 patrol program in Calais has a new face — an energetic 3-year-old dog named Spike.
Spike, a Dutch shepherd, joined the department last month and soon will be working closely with Sgt. Chris Donahue of the Calais Police Department as a patrol dog.
“He is very eager to please. You can just tell by the way he reacts,” Donahue said in an interview last week.
Spike came to the United States from Holland through the International K-9 Exchange. The importer the Calais Police Department deals with gets his dogs from there, Donahue said.
A couple telltale signs of Spike’s heritage are that he stops to smell the tulips, and he responds to commands given in Dutch. Donahue learned to give Spike some of his commands in the dog’s native language.
Spike is stepping into some rather large paw prints left by Calais’ first K-9 dog, Major, who was 10 years old when he retired on Jan. 23 for health reasons.
With Spike’s arrival, Major, who had been living with Donahue since he was a young pup, had to go to a new home. A friend of Donahue’s volunteered to take him.
“I could not get the two to get along,” he said. “With two alpha dogs, I was playing musical dogs letting them in and out. It was just getting too hard.” He also was concerned because the two dominant-personality dogs were around Donahue’s 4-year-old daughter.
The handler and his new partner will start training soon.
Donahue said ordinarily it would take three months to complete such training, but because of state budget problems, the Maine State Police canceled its K-9 patrol school. Donahue and Spike then were headed to the New Hampshire State Police Patrol School, but that also was canceled because of budget problems.
Now man and dog are scheduled to get some of their basic training at the police academy in Waterville in the next few weeks.
Calais’ police K-9 patrol began in 2001 when then-Police Chief Michael Milburn pushed for it. Donahue and Major began to patrol together in June 2001. Major was involved in more than 200 cases in Washington County before he retired. That is why Spike is going to have to work hard to measure up. But Donahue said he believed the dog would adapt well to his new job.
Last week, the local Wal-Mart store gave the city a $5,000 grant for its K-9 program. Donahue said the K-9 patrol unit would have been dropped had Wal-Mart not stepped in.
“This day and age, with the economy the way it is, the tax burden the way it is, if Wal-Mart hadn’t stepped up and graciously given that amount of money, our program would have gone away,” the sergeant said.