By Janel Sullivan, contributing writer
Doyle has been on the job for less than a week at the State Police barracks in Fulton and he’s already proving himself. Doyle, a German shepherd, and his handler Trooper Shaun Smith are recent graduates of the New York State Police Canine Academy.
The Division Canine Training Facility is located in Cooperstown, NY and is a 20 week program. In order to attend the academy, Smith had to pass a physical fitness standard and pass a board interview. The board consists of other canine handlers and the canine training staff.
Smith lived at the facility for all 20 weeks and was paired with Doyle on July 19th. Every day, the pair went through drills of handler protection, obedience, tracking, and detection to turn Doyle into a police dog and Smith into a dog handler.
Knowing he gets to spend his shifts working with his dog is what made Smith want the position in the first place. “I’ve always had dogs, I’ve always liked working with dogs. I think the most important thing is how a dog wants to please the person they love the most.”
At Smith’s graduation, on November 27, 2012, nine handlers from the State Police and three handlers from outside agencies participated in the ceremonies. His graduation put him into select company; there are more than 2,000 Troopers, but only about 75 are qualified to handle dogs.
Doyle is also part of a select group of dogs chosen to be police dogs. All State Police dogs are donated and are between 1 and 3 years old. When a dog is offered to the State Police, a handler already on the unit will test the dog. Doyle is a prime example of a dog who loves to play and run, Smith said, which makes him an ideal police dog. “The dogs are so smart,” said Smith. “It’s amazing what they can do.”
Doyle put on a show of finding some hidden drugs in the basement of the State Police barracks. “It’s all muscle memory,” Smith said. “Next time we come down here, he’ll sniff it again just to make sure.” (See the video at the end of the article for a demonstration.)
Doyle is expected to be on duty for 6-8 years, but as Smith said “it depends on the dog.” Some dogs and their handlers have been on duty for more than 12 years.
All the dogs are named after Troopers who have died in the line of duty. Doyle is named for Trooper William G. Doyle of the Pulaski barracks, who was murdered on duty by escapees from a mental ward in 1967. His brother, also a Trooper assigned to Pulaski, found his body.
Now that Smith and Doyle are on the job Smith said, “I want to find as many drugs on the street, and get them off the street.” Doyle will also be used to help find missing persons, and has already been called out to find a missing hunter.
“I want to work my dog, he’s an asset to the state,” said Smith. “As a new handler, I’m just glad to be selected to be part of a pretty tight knit-group of guys.”