The held a retirement celebration Friday afternoon, thanking K-9 Reign and his handler, Detective Rosario Savastra, for their years of service.
Savastra, who has been Reign's handler since the dog was acquired in 2006, was promoted from officer to detective effective March 18. Although Reign could have been assigned to another handler, since he had reached retirement age (police dogs are typically retired at age 9 or 10), the decision was made to release the dog from service.
As is the custom with retired police dogs, Reign has become the handler's family pet, and will continue to live with Savastra, his wife Andrea, and their 3-year-old daughter Chloe.
"He's a very sociable, lovable dog. It's like a light switch; he knows when to turn it off and go from working to playing," Savastra said.
Reign loved working, and loved being in the cruiser, but Savastra thinks he will adapt well to retirement. He plans to bring Reign to visit the department at least every few months. "He knows where to go in the building to get the best treats," Savastra said.
Chief Tracey Gove thanked K-9 Reign and Savastra for the great work they have done together – apprehending assault and robbery suspects, locating a mentally-disabled woman who had gone missing, finding 40 hidden bags of heroin and a stolen handgun during a traffic stop, locating a stash of crack cocaine in a baby's crib, and many other assignments.
"Usually you call the K-9 when things are bad, and most of the time the K-9 handler is right there in the middle of it," Gove said.
Savastra said Reign really seemed to love doing K-9 demonstrations.
Reign, who was named in honor of the Vietnam war hero dog Rain, was honorably discharged from police duty and officially turned over to Savastra through a proclamation issued by Mayor Scott Slifka.
West Hartford Police now have just one police dog, following Reign's retirement and the last summer. Kora was diagnosed with cancer shortly after her retirement and .
The remaining K-9, Jett, is handled by Officer Tom Lazure. Jett has been in service less than a year, and Chief Gove is looking forward to getting another dog as soon as possible.
"We are seeking additional funding right now," Gove said.
Captain David Dubiel said that the department obtains pre-trained dogs through a private Czech vendor, at a cost of approximately $12,000.
Gove said that they are currently taking applications from existing officers interested in becoming the next K-9 handler, through a process of interviews, supervisor input, and home visits. Police dogs live in the homes of their handlers, and the handler must be "active and level-headed in judgment," Gove said.
Even though the dogs arrive pre-trained, dogs and handlers attend an eight-week course together. The next class is in New Milford in August, and Gove hopes to have a dog and handler enrolled.