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Newtown Police Department K-9 Officer Saint Michael was a happy dog. He lived a life full of purpose, pride, and protection for our community.
Saint was a German shepherd dog, born in Hungary on October 31, 2012. A striking black dog with tan legs and a long bushy tail, that wagged often, he lost his battle with cancer over the Easter weekend. My condolences to his handler NPD Officer Felicia Figol and his decoy NPD Officer Matt Hayes. Saint lived with Officer Figol. When he was not working, he brought joy to her family in his off-duty life. Even working dogs are still our faithful companions when at home.
I first met Saint on a sunny fall day at Fairfield Hills, where on September 9, 2014, he was sworn in as a Newtown police officer. It was a double ceremony where we said goodbye to Baro, Officer Figol’s first K-9 partner, and welcomed her newest one, Saint.
At the time I was working for the American Kennel Club, and helped to put on the press conference that day to introduce Saint to Newtown. The press showed up and started to surround him like a rock star once he was officially part of the department. Smiles were all around and even a bouquet of flowers was presented to Officer Figol. I too had a camera that day and quickly snapped a few shots for the AKC website. As I look back on that photo today, I see Saint looking at the photos of Baro. It appeared like he was thinking, “I have some big paws to fill.” But fill them he did.
Saint was purchased by donations from the Newtown Kennel Club, Farmington Valley Kennel Club, Trap Falls Kennel Club, AKC Reunite, the AKC Humane Fund, and private citizens for the Newtown Police Department. His arrival was truly a community effort to fill a void. He was trained in Shutzhund and was acquired by Renbar Kennels in 2013.
Saint began his police training under the command of Lieutenant Bill Scribner from New Milford Police Department in December 2013 and graduated on January 17, 2014. He was a dual purpose police K-9, trained in patrol and narcotics. Saint was a very valuable asset to the Newtown Police Department. I’m not privy to his impressive law enforcement record, but I’m sure many will share his accomplishments in the coming days.
Police K-9 Challenge Rock Star
One of Saint’s more important jobs was that of K-9 ambassador. He made many trips to schools, fairs, and events to demonstrate the vital role of a police dog in the community. The Newtown Kennel Club first invited him to do a demonstration at the club’s Responsible Dog Ownership Day at the Second Company Governor’s Horse Guard (2GHG) about a month after his swearing in. Even though it was getting dark, Officers Figol and Hayes went through their paces with Saint in the middle of the hunt field with a crowd of about 100 watching in awe.
The next year, Saint stepped it up a notch. He volunteered to take the AKC Canine Good Citizen test at the K-9 Karnival in Shelton. Not only that, Officer Figol agreed to have the test filmed by the AKC as an educational video to demonstrate the versatility of working police K-9s. US Senator Richard Blumenthal even came to watch!
One month later, Saint stepped up the plate again to participate in the inaugural Western CT Police K-9 Challenge. I remember the cold, raw day, with mist and mud. But he and Officer Figol dove into the challenge with the other competitors to once again show what this dog was made of and to promote police K-9s in action.
By 2016, the Police K-9 Challenge had grown, and Saint had gone to several of these K-9 Olympics-type events around the state. He clearly was the crowd favorite at Fairfield Hills as the hometown boy and earned a few awards. And I’m sure he knew what a pivotal role his handler played in creating and promoting this event. I know I loved watching this team in action. And while Saint won’t be there to compete this year, he will be there all around us.
I last saw Saint a few weeks ago at the Newtown police department. He was friendly as ever, and showed no signs of what was deep inside of him. As I think back on the day I first met him, how he had to fill big paws, today, I know that the next K-9 will not only have to fill big paws, but have to fill many broken hearts for the loss of this special dog.
Lisa Peterson writes about horses, hounds and history at lisaunleashed.com; contact her at email@example.com.
See Bee Reporter Andrew Gorosko’s related story about Saint Michael here.