ELLSWORTH, Maine — On Monday, the Police Department introduced its newest officer to the public at a meet-and-greet in council chambers.
Chase, a 16-month-old Belgian malinois puppy, has joined the force and will partner with Sgt. Shawn Willey. The pup replaces the award-winning K9 Vegas, who retired earlier this month after seven years of service.
“He’s very playful, very agile, fast,” Willey said as he kicked a ball back and forth with Chase, who darted around council chambers during the event. “He has his own personality. He’s totally different than Vegas, and he loves to play ball.”
While Chase already is on active duty, he also is receiving K-9 training from his original owners, Rod Sparkowich and Tracy Shaw of Coastal K9 Consulting, who raised Chase and donated him to the Ellsworth PD.
While Coastal K9 provided Chase free of charge and will continue to provide free training, the city did pay $3,500 through grant money and donations for Chase’s initial police training at North Edge K9 in Portland.
Willey said Chase should be certified for patrol and narcotics work — the same training received by Vegas — after completing the minimum number of training hours required by the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.
Chase is the department’s third K-9 and its first Belgian malinois. Sparkowich and Shaw said the malinois is a healthier dog than the ubiquitous German shepherds, who often suffer from hip dysplasia and other problems as they age.
Willey said he has already noticed differences in the smaller breed.
“He’s so much quicker than a German shepherd, quieter so far than a German shepherd riding around in the car,” he said.
Police Chief John DeLeo, who handled the department’s first police dog, Rex, in the late ’70s and early ’80s, said Chase will be a great addition to the force.
“Vegas was an excellent asset and we’re excited to have Chase fill the void that he left,” DeLeo said.
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.