Newtown's newest K-9 Officer Saint Michael, a two-year-old German shepherd, was sworn in today during a ceremony to pay tribute to the Newtown (Conn.) Police Department's recently deceased K-9 officer Baro at the Newtown Municipal Center.
The new police dog's purchase and training was made possible by $14,250 in donations and grants from the American Kennel Club community of non-profit affiliates AKC Reunite and the AKC Humane Fund; AKC member clubs, Trap Falls Kennel Club, Newtown Kennel Club, and Farmington Kennel Club, as well as delegates and local residents.
AKC Delegate to the Trap Falls Kennel Club Chris Sweetwood and Newtown Officer Matt Hayes of the K-9 unit served together in Iraq. The two had not seen each other in nearly a decade when a chance meeting at a dog event in August 2012 discovered a shared passion for dogs and for serving the community.
"I learned that most local police departments have limited funding and a K-9 unit is usually not part of that funding," Sweetwood said. "In an effort to help out, Trap Falls Kennel Club made a $500 donation last fall to the Newtown Police K-9 Unit to provide financial assistance. That was just the beginning."
After the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, which stretched Newtown's resources, and the unexpected early retirement and passing of Baro in June, Newtown was faced with not having a working police dog among its ranks. Baro, who directly responded to Sandy Hook, was missed greatly by law enforcement and the community.
"I felt that there had to be a way to assist our local first responders," Sweetwood said. "Since most local department K-9's are cross trained in search and rescue, our club assisted the Newtown police department with an application for an AKC Reunite search and rescue grant. I then reached out to the AKC community to raise additional funds to help purchase a new working dog for the Newtown community. It was the right thing to do."