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Candice Sousa was basically mauled by her K-9, a 5-year-old German shepherd, Pi, as onlookers got a look into what training a police dog is about, during the Western Connecticut Police K-9 Challenge on the Fairfield Hills grounds of the Second Company Governor’s Horse Guard (2GHG), October 7.
Ms Sousa, of course, was wearing a protective bite suit and the demonstration was to shed some light on the process of training dog when to attack and when to hold back. Ms Sousa, who is a nurse, trains dogs on the side as part of K-9 Crime Stoppers, which raises, trains, and donates police dogs to communities in need.
“It will prevent your skin from breaking open,” Ms Sousa said of the bite suit.
“Sometimes,” Bryan Colletti, founder of K-9 Crime Stoppers chimed in.
“You feel it. My legs are totally covered in bruises. It’s not the best beach scene,” Ms Sousa added.
Ms Sousa suffered torn ligaments in her thumb, and Mr Colletti showed off his healing foot that was injured during training, despite also having protective gear on.
“We sacrifice literally blood, sweat, and tears,” Ms Sousa said — all to get future police dogs to obey instruction and not attack anything that moves — which could be children pushing each other at a concert where the dog is on duty, for example, Ms Sousa said.
This somewhat simulated attack was just a part of a morning and afternoon loaded with K-9 and horse activities to benefit the Horse Guard.
Connecticut military and police K-9s tackled the obstacle course, apprehended “suspects,” demonstrated their obedience skills, and competed for fastest dog bragging rights at the Third Annual Western Connecticut Police K-9 Challenge. Police K-9 teams from New Britain, Fairfield, Stamford, Clinton, Portland, and the Connecticut 928th Military Working Dogs, Army National Guard, based in Newtown, were among the top winners.
Awards were given as follows:
Best Overall Team Awards
First: Connecticut 928th Military Police Working Dog Detachment, Army National Guard, based in Newtown — K-9 Tess, a 9-year-old female Belgian Malinois, dual-purpose trained with her handler Sergeant Nelson Struck.
Second: New Britain Police Department — K-9 Dony, a 2-year-old male Belgian Malinois/German shepherd mix, patrol trained with his handler Officer Emily Carrasquillo.
Third: Stamford Police Department — K-9 Axe, a 14-month-old male Belgian Malinois/Dutch shepherd mix, dual-purposed trained, his handler Officer Willie Guilford.
Best K-9 Awards
First: K-9 Dony — a 2-year-old male Belgian Malinois/German shepherd mix, patrol trained, from the New Britain Police Department with his handler Officer Emily Crrasquillo.
Second: K-9 Nero — 2-year-old male German shepherd, dual-purpose trained in narcotics detection and patrol, from the Portland Police Department with his handler Sergeant Jim Kelly.
Third: K-9 Maverick — a 3-year-old male German shepherd, from the Fairfield Police Department with his handler Officer Evan Kaesmann.
Best Handler Awards
First: Officer Willie Guildford from the Stamford Police Department with K-9 Axe, a 14-month-old male Belgian Malinois/Dutch Shepherd mix, dual-purposed trained.
Second: Officer Jason Frey from the Clinton Police Department with K-9 Sonny, a 2-year-old male German shepherd, dual-purpose trained in patrol and narcotics.
Third: Officer Emily Carrasquillo from the New Britain Police Department with K-9 Dony, a 2-year-old male Belgian Malinois/German shepherd mix, trained in patrol.
Stephen A. Ketchum People’s Choice Award
Based on votes from the public to honor the memory of Newtown Police Officer Stephen A. Ketchum and his dedication to the community and the police department, K-9 Axe, a 14-month-old male Belgian Malinois/Dutch shepherd mix, dual-purposed trained from the Stamford Police Department, was the 2017 People’s Choice Winner: Members of the Ketchum family presented the award.
The competition was a fundraiser for the 2GHG unit, hosted by the Newtown Kennel Club (NKC) and the Friends of Second Company Governor’s Horse Guard. Donations raised will help keep the 2GHG — one of the last cavalry units in the country — based in Newtown.
Paula Wickham, Chris Sweetwood, and Erik Grasso judged the day’s competition. Newtown Police Officer Matt Hayes was the decoy “suspect.” Opening ceremonies included the Police Pipes & Drums of Waterbury. The 2GHG Commandant Major James Marrinan and Friends of the 2GHG President Gordon Johnson assisted by Newtown Kennel Club members, presented ribbons and medallions to the winners during the awards ceremony.
“We need to do things like this for funding to keep us here and alive,” said Major Marrinan, adding that the Horse Guard partners with organizations included the Newtown Police Department, Hometown Foundation, and Newtown Kennel Club.
The 2GHG receives support, as well, from Republican Representative Mitch Bolinsky and Democrat Representative David Arconti of Danbury.
“It’s so nice to have the bipartisanship support,” Major Marinan said.
Children got to meet horses, paint pumpkins, and go on a hay ride during the K-9 Challenge, a family event that catered to all ages. An estimated 1,000 attendees were on hand throughout the day’s activities.
“The weather has been with us and that is probably the biggest and most important part of it,” 2GHG President Johnson said.
Katie Sheehan of Easton,brought her horse, Chance, for a meet and greet and to expose Chance to crowds in an effort to get her horse prepared for shows, where there will be a lot more people around than Chance is accustomed to.
“This is the perfect type of atmosphere, so they feel comfortable but are out of their comfort zone,” Ms Sheehan said.
Newtown Police Officer Felicia Figol brought the department’s new K-9, Aris, to introduce the 82-pound successor of Saint Michael to the crowd. Saint Michael, the Newtown Police Department’s former K-9 officer, died of cancer earlier this year. Aris, who came to the Newtown Police via Superior Canine Training, was named by Newtown Police Chief James Viadero in honor of a dog Chief Viadero worked with when he ran Bridgeport’s K-9 program.
“We hope to live up to that name,” said Ofc Figol, who added that the K-9s become part of the family as part of the training process, since they live with the officers.
“There’s got to be that perfect bond between the two,” Ofc Figol said, and that bond was on display as officers and their K-9s weaved through an obstacle course.
The 2017 Western Connecticut K-9 Challenge was sponsored by ACI Dynamix, Harvest Properties, K-9 Crime Stoppers, Pet Aesthetics Salon & Boutique LLC, The Hometown Foundation, Inc, and Thermo King.