BY ANDREAS YILMA
BEACON FALLS — The town’s police department now has a new four-legged addition to help with search and rescue.
First Selectman Gerard Smith swore in Echo, an 8-year-old Dutch shepherd, who stood alongside her trainer Beacon Falls police officer Celeste Robitaille at the regular Board of Selectmen meeting on July 10.
Smith said it’s the first time the town has had a K-9 unit and was grateful for Robitaille’s willingness to lend her partner in search and rescue work.
“We’re blessed to have you,” Smith said. “It’s a great thing for the town.”
Robitaille, who started as a K-9 handler in 1997 and was formerly a Stratford Police lieutenant, was the supervisor who ran the department’s K-9 unit. She began training dogs for search and rescue about 10 years ago and Echo at 3 months old in 2016, who now has at least 1,000 hours of training.
Smith said it was made available to the town at no cost.
Beacon Falls Cpl. Jay Piccirillo said Robitaille volunteered her services with Echo.
“It’s a good dog to have in town because of the ruralness of the town, the woods around us. We have a lot of missing hikers up at High Rock,” Piccirillo said. “The dog is very friendly. It’s good to bring to schools and stuff like that. It doesn’t do any bite work, doesn’t do any narcotics, doesn’t do anything with suspects or criminals, any of that stuff.”
Echo, is Robitaille’s fourth working dog, where all of her other dogs were search and rescue dogs. The two are currently part of Resources in Search and Rescue, a volunteer rescue group based out of Monroe. Robitaille is also a trainer for the organization.
“I think it’s greatly important not only can she help if somebody is lost and missing she can also do community work,” Robitaille said.
Robitaille said she’s a master trainer for International Police Dog Association while Echo is certified with the organization in wilderness, search and human remains for crime scene and water recovery.
“They do off-leash wilderness search and rescue, they do cadavers so they search for bodies anywhere and they do water rescues and they’ll actually find cadavers in the water,” Robitaille said. “So when someone drowns, those dogs are trained to go into the water toward the edge of the shore, find where that body is in the water and help retrieve it.”
Smith said the police department’s newest addition is very important.
“I think it’s a connection,” Smith said.
“It’s a way for the officers and the public to connect through the dog.”
“And to feel more secure with the police department,” Selectman Peter Betkoski added.
Police brought out Echo to the Beacon Hose Carnival at few weeks ago and there were a lot of people wanting to pet the dog or take pictures.cture of the dog, Piccirillo said.
Piccirillo said the town may wait for several hours to arrive if there was a need for a state police dog. That may take too long sometimes, which is why it will be advantageous to have a dog in-house.
Robitaille, who joined the police force last year, said Echo is with her everyday when she’s on patrol.