PERU — A fourth-grade class got the chance to meet a Maine State Police tracking dog and the trooper who handles him Friday morning at Dirigo Elementary School.

Maine State Trooper Adam Fillebrown was invited to Kristi Holmquist’s class to explain to students what he and his tracking dog, Aros, do while on the job.

Holmquist said that her students recently read a book about guide dogs, service dogs and search-and-rescue dogs and invited Fillebrown and Aros into the classroom to ask questions and learn more about their work.

Fillebrown explained that he’s been a dog handler for 10 years and that Aros, a German shepherd-Belgian Malinois mix, is the second dog that he’s trained.

“There are many different types of dogs, such as bomb dogs, narcotics dogs, search-and-rescue dogs and cadaver dogs,” Fillebrown told the students. “Aros is mainly a tracking dog.”

“Everybody has a different scent,” Fillebrown continued. “You can’t really tell the different scents apart unless someone has perfume on or hasn’t showered in a couple of weeks. When you move around, your scent leaves a trace. Aros is trained to follow the scents that people leave behind.”

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In order to properly track someone, whether they’re a missing child or a criminal on the run, Fillebrown said that he uses a “scent article” to help Aros.

“A scent article is basically a piece of clothing belonging to the missing person that we let the dog smell so he can get their scent,” Fillebrown said.

Holmquist asked Fillebrown if he had to let the dog smell the scent article multiple times when tracking a missing person, or if the dog can track someone after one sniff.

“Sometimes we have to let him smell the scent article more than once,” Fillebrown replied. “If Aros starts to lose track of the scent, we let him smell it again and he tries to find it.”

Fillebrown said that being a dog handler means keeping yourself in peak physical shape, since the dog is “constantly pulling you around.”

“I have to take a physical fitness test every six months to show that I’m in shape and can keep up with the dog,” Fillebrown said. “They’ll have me run a mile and a half in a certain amount of time and do a certain amount of push-ups and sit-ups. Aros has to take a test, too. He needs to be able to jump over a six-foot wall and be able to track people and drugs.”

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Fillebrown said that Aros is driven primarily by his love for toys.

“I’d like to think that he’s driven by my praise and by telling him that he’s done a good job, but I think 90 percent of what drives him is this,” Fillebrown said as he pulled a rubber ball with a string attached to it from the side pocket of his pants.

Aros immediately stood up and began barking, desperate for Fillebrown to throw the ball.

“When we choose a dog to train as a tracking dog, they need to have ball drive,” Fillebrown explained as Aros bounced around him. “When Aros does a good job, I give him his toy.”

Fillebrown let go of the ball and Aros pounced on it as the students gasped and laughed.

One student asked Fillebrown if he and Aros had ever tracked anyone for more than a day.

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“I’ve never tracked anyone for that long consecutively,” Fillebrown said. “A few months ago, a woman went missing from Waterford, and Aros and I would go into the woods to track her. I would go home at night, but I’d wake up the next morning and we’d go into the woods to continue tracking. That one lasted a few days.”

Although Aros is owned by the Maine State Police, Fillebrown said that Aros lives with him “24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” and that the first tracking dog he trained, Caro, is currently retired and also living at his house.

“I have two big German shepherd dogs at my house,” Fillebrown said with a smile. “When Caro was retired, they signed him over to me, and they’ll do the same to Aros when he’s retired.”

“The funny thing is, these dogs are hard workers, and even though Caro is retired, when I open the door to my cruiser, he still jumps in there like he’s ready to go,” Fillebrown continued. “He still has that mindset.”

After answering questions from students, Fillebrown allowed the students to pet Aros.

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