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Military and police patrol dogs strut their stuff at K-9 team benefit

A highly trained K-9 military patrol dog demonstrates his effective technique in apprehending suspects attempting to flee the scene of the crime. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
September 21, 2011
ASHLAND—As the strikingly handsome Czechoslovakian Shepherd "Csuma" nuzzles the palm of Staff Sgt. J.D. Wake from the Hanscom Air Force Base Military Working Dog Unit, it is hard to imagine the seemingly gentle canine with the big, pleading eyes engaged in apprehending a terrorist or enemy insurgent in the heat of battle.

But step back from the working dog... you are in for a surprise.

Csuma and Sgt. Wake were but one team among the many Military, State and Local Police Working Dog units on hand at the Third Annual K-9 Benefit Gala and demonstration organized by activist and supporter Laurie Coffin in Ashland on Saturday.

The event, held each year, raises money to support military working dog units that are deployed overseas, in fond memory of, and tribute to, Marine Cpl. Dustin J. Lee and his K-9 partner "Lex," who served in Iraq. Cpl. Lee was killed in the line of duty in Iraq, with Lex at his side, ever faithful. Lex has been retired to spend his remaining years with Cpl. Lee's family in Mississippi, but his story so touched the heart of Coffin that she vowed to do everything in her power to recognize and support the service of other Military working dog teams, and their police dog colleagues here back at home.

Coffin has worked assiduously over the years to raise money and donations to support Military working dog teams stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as to encourage local police dog teams here at home.

If you want to know why she is so passionate about their service, all you have to do is see them in action.

Hundreds of K-9 Benefit attendees had the opportunity to do just that this past Saturday afternoon at the military and police dog demonstration that was part of the festivities, along with a pulled pork barbeque, a raffle, silent auction, entertainment and a classic car "cruise" in the parking lot at Noseworthy Real Estate, off Main Street in Ashland. It was a very big party, and everybody was having a really good time all afternoon.

But the highlight of the proceedings was undoubtedly the K-9 Working Dog demonstration, courtesy of the Hanscom Air Force K-9 Unit from Bedford, Mass., the New Hampshire State Police, the Laconia Police Department, and featuring the debut of the newest addition to the force at the Plymouth Police Department, Canine "Bruder" and his handler, Sgt. Derek Newcomb!

Well…O.K. , Bruder hasn't actually been "sworn in" yet, and is only beginning his training regime. After all, he is still only seven months old. But the sleek, black and tan shepherd is clearly well on his way to a coveted position in the elite ranks of the talented working dogs that were being showcased at this weekend's event. (Stay tuned for more on Bruder's progress... and for pictures, check out the Record Enterprise on Facebook!)

In the meantime, the crowd simply couldn't suppress their "ooohs and ahhs" of admiration watching the K-9's at work, demonstrating their skills in detecting narcotics, tracking and searching for lost children or hikers, apprehending criminals, ferreting out narcotics or evidence in the field, and otherwise, just plain showing off amazing feats of agility, strength and speed. They displayed everything from the fine points of ferocious intimidation, to determined searches requiring sustained concentration, to exhibitions of training, discipline, self control and obedience. Jumping over suspects' cars to apprehend a fleeing criminal, or pouncing on a man with a gun through the open window of a stopped vehicle to ward off danger to the arresting officer... all this is just in the line of duty to these hearty dogs as they work side by side in partnership with their handlers to "protect and serve." It is really something to see.

But all this specialized training and skill doesn't come without a price. So Coffin, and others in the community, work hard to help raise the funds to cover some of the additional expenses. According to State Police handlers, it can cost up to $15,000 to $20,000 to train, equip and care for a fully qualified working dog over a career that usually spans from eight to 10 years. Much of the expense at the state level is covered by federal "Street Sweeper" grants that provide for the provision of narcotics trained search and patrol dogs.

One important initiative is to raise money to purchase bulletproof vests for police working dogs. These vests can cost up to $900, and are not "standard issue." There are also efforts to raise funds for cooling units for patrol cars so that the officer's best friend can ride in the assurance of safety on hot summer days when they are on duty.

But there are many ways to get involved and help. For more information, call Laurie Coffin at Noseworthy Real Estate at 968-9451, and mark your calendars for next year's event!

Varney Smith
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