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Gilford's first K-9 team stepping down, but program will continue



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Officer Adam VanSteensburg and Ike greet the Gilford Community at Old Home Day. (Jeff Ferland) (click for larger version)
September 26, 2012
After eight full years of service to the Gilford community, the Gilford Police Canine, Agbar, will soon be retiring from full-time service, but the Canine Unit will continue with a new duo.

Sgt. Dustin Parent, current canine officer, said nine-year-old Agbar, a German Shepard from the Czech Republic, has proven his great abilities over his years of service, but those years of hard work have started to affect Agbar.

"I'm starting to see, after a long day, he is slowing down," said Parent.

Though Parent recently accepted a promotion and will not remain part of the department's canine team, he is glad to see the program continue. Officer Adam VanSteensburg will be taking on the duties of the Canine Officer, and has already begun training with the new German Shepard, Ike from Canada, thanks to a grant from the New Hampshire Working Dog Foundation.

"Through grants and donations, they basically paid for the dog. It cost the town nothing," said VanSteensburg, thanking the Foundation. "We wouldn't have the program without them."

In separate interviews, Parent and VanSteensburg both agreed the Canine officer is the best job they could ask for.

"I don't think you can beat it," said VanSteensburg. "It's the best job."

VanSteensburg said Ike will begin taking over patrol duties as soon as they pass their certification. He said Agbar will only be semi-retired, and will still be in service for any narcotics-related duties until Ike is fully train and certified for that as well.

Agbar and Parent were the first Canine Unit in service to the Gilford community, and VanSteensburg said he and Ike were lucky to have Parent as a mentor to help guide them through the training process.

"He has been a tremendous help," said VanSteensburg. "That is something [Parent] didn't have starting out."

VanSteensburg said he was always interested in becoming a Canine Officer, but he never had the opportunity until now. According to VanSteensburg, he and Ike are still working to foster a strong bond together like Parent and Agbar developed over their time in service.

Parent said that bond is something officer cannot train for, but is something they have to develop over time with their Canine partner.

Parent and VanSteensburg said working as a Canine Officer is a 24-hour-per-day duty.

"Even after he is certified, we still have to train," said VanSteensburg.

"The dog gets it," he laughed. "The training is more for me than probably for the dog."

VanSteensburg said he and Ike train at the New Hampshire Police Canine Academy in Portsmouth, which is also supported by the New Hampshire Working Dog Foundation.

According to VanSteensburg, Ike will be certified this Fall, and they will begin taking over patrol duties.

As for Agbar, the selectmen sold him to Parent for $1, as is common practice with many retired canine units.

Parent said Agbar loves his work, and will miss going out on patrols but will most likely settle nicely into retirement with many well-deserved treats and afternoon naps.

"It is hard work. Even on days off, we're dealing with training," said Parent.

"But it can be a lot of fun, and very rewarding," he said, describing their work tracking suspects through wooded areas or finding a lost child.

"All that hard work pays off right before your eyes," he added. "I'm going to miss it."

Garnett Hill
Salmon Press
Parker Village
Martin Lord Osman
Northern Human Services
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