The Fairfield Police Department recently welcomed a new addition to its K-9 unit, dedicated to taking a bite out of crime.
Officer Frank Piro and his four-legged partner, Ajax, a 1 1/2-year-old German shepherd, took to the streets just over a month ago and, according to the program's more seasoned veterans, are well on their way to a promising run.
Piro joined the Fairfield department in 2003 after spending two years with the Mill Valley Police Department. Piro, who has spent time on both the department's narcotics and crime suppression teams, said that, although it's still early, so far he is enjoying his time with the K-9 unit.
"It's a lot of fun going out and helping people," he said. "It's different every night I go to work, there are different calls and people and nothing's ever repetitive in this job."
Now, Piro gets to adjust to having a partner riding shotgun -- something he said has been different -- but in a good way.
Piro said he has always liked dogs and had helped out with training sessions for the K-9 unit and had the opportunity to work with some of the unit's other dogs. He said he enjoyed the training aspect so much that it piqued his interest in becoming a handler himself.
According to Lt. Al Bagos, the unit's coordinator, the entire K-9 team was involved in the selection process of Ajax, who joins the department's other three dogs, Kargo, Greck and Jack.
"We've got to match the dog with the personality of the handler too, because that makes it more of a synergistic relationship," Bagos said.
Ajax's alertness and the way he handled himself set him apart from the other three dogs that were being evaluated, Bagos said.
He went on to say that Ajax had an almost immediate bond with Piro. After bringing the new addition back to the department, Bagos said that when Piro walked back to the car, Ajax immediately started looking for him -- and didn't stop until he returned.
"That's a good sign with a dog," Bagos said.
The entire month of March was taken up by training for the new partners, a process that Piro said is intense and takes a lot of work.
Aside from their initial four-week training course together, Piro and Ajax train at the department three days each month, although Bagos said that when it comes to the K-9 unit, training occurs on a daily basis.
"Every day they're required to do some form of training," Bagos said. "Even if it's just discipline, just to keep them going."
Bagos said the training is always documented and so far, when it comes to Ajax, the results have been good.
In another year, Ajax will be back in school for a training course that will add narcotics detection to his current repertoire as a protection dog.
"We send the dogs to narcotics training after one year so that they get the protection part down solid," said Sgt. Kevin Carella, former K-9 handler and current supervisor with the unit.
For now, Ajax is working on learning the ropes of his new job, something that Piro said is done "one step at a time."?
By Catherine Bowen / The Reporter