K-9 officers visit Minisink Valley third-graders to teach them about their work

police officers with dogs

It’s one thing to read a book about a police officer and his or her K-9 partner; it’s another thing to actually see that book “in action” through a visit by local police officers and their K-9 partners.

That’s what happened today, Nov. 8, when Officers Skip, Kato, Gambit, Maverick, Rex and Tate — along with their “human” partners — visited third-graders at Minisink Valley Intermediate School.

Joan Plummer Russell’s “Aero and Officer Mike” is a non-fiction book chronicling the partnership of Cpl. Mike Matsik and his K-9 partner, Aero.  All third-grade classes read the book, and with the officers’ visit, made real life connections.

Orange County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Dustin Palen led the outdoor assembly to students with assistance from officers representing the City of Newburgh, Town of Wallkill, City of Middletown and Orange County Sheriff’s Department K-9 units.  Their visit reinforced the book’s content about the important link  between the human and canine officers.

police officer with dog jumping in the air

Sgt. Palen told students about the important role K-9 officers play in police work, including: protecting the public, solving crimes and criminal apprehension.

He spoke of their roles in patrolling, finding narcotics, explosive devices and even people, in addition to evidence recovery and their ability to “catch the people who don’t listen to us and try to run away.”  (Did you know a K-9 can run approximately 30 mph?)

The dogs, Sgt. Palen explained, mostly come from eastern Europe and are about 1-year-old when they are assigned to a human officer.

There’s intense and ongoing training, he told students, which includes obedience, agility and tracking training. In addition, the dogs learn verbal and non-verbal commands and more.   They typically work six to nine years before they retire from service.

police officer answering questions from students

During the assembly, the human and K-9 officers demonstrated how the dogs’ intensely keen sense of smell allows them to sniff out drugs and explosives; how the faintest human scent on an object can be detected to find different items; and how a dog can outrun even the fastest criminal.

Officers later answered questions for students, telling them more about K-9 training and handling, how the dogs are cared for and even career opportunities in the general police and K-9 officer fields.

student posing with police officer and dog

Students were delighted to have a meet-and-greet/photo opportunity with Officer Skip at the end of the presentation.

To see more photos, visit the district’s Facebook page: Minisink Valley Central School District