RUMFORD — Niko the K-9 is trained and hitting the streets.
The affectionate black Labrador and his handler, officer Brad Gallant, completed training as a team Dec. 14 in a program run by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.
“We’re a Maine certified K-9 team in narcotics detection,” Gallant said.
After training for 320 hours in narcotics and another 480 on patrol, they worked their first shift Dec. 17. “Niko did one sniff on a car, but there were no drugs,” Gallant said.
Niko is good at finding narcotics, Gallant said. “It’s amazing to watch. You could take drugs and hide them in a hallway somewhere, tell him to go to work, and he’s probably going to find them without me walking him through and checking with him.”
The dog still needs a lot of practice to fine-tune things, Gallant said. “It will be a slow process for the first few months, until the snow is gone.”
He said people should not approach Niko if he is obviously working.
“If we’re out at a public event or something, by all means,” the officer said. “We love the attention. Just ask me first. If I walk into a classroom, I’ll give specific instructions. But if you see us out and about, he loves the attention.”
Gallant said he can’t wait for students to return from their Christmas break.
“We’ve got plans to get into the schools in January,” Gallant said. “We’re hoping to do some fun visits, so the kids can meet him. But we’re also hoping to do some demonstrations with his training, too.”
On Niko’s Facebook page is a video of him trying out booties.
Gallant said, “I got them now so he’ll get used to them. Probably use them mostly for tracking.”
He said there has also been a discussion about doing cop cards for Niko. But that won’t happen until a sponsor or grant can be found to pay for them.
At town meeting June 12, voters approved raising $59,000 for a police dog.
Police Chief Stacy Carter estimated an annual cost of about $10,000 to support the program, which includes the cost of quarterly training to stay certified and the cost of food and officer compensation.
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Niko the police dog and his handler, Rumford officer Brad Gallant, are a Maine certified K-9 team in narcotics detection. (Rumford Falls Times photo by Bruce Farrin)

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