The latest round of Little People toys from Fisher-Price includes a cop and canine companion named after a real Buffalo police officer and her dog.
As Fisher-Price in East Aurora was developing a police station, one of its cost engineers, Mike Chmura of the Town of Hamburg, said that his wife was a Buffalo police officer in the canine unit. The designers of the toys asked some more questions. Several months later Chmura discovered that the figures bore the names of his wife, Michelle, and her German shepherd, Duran.
"I thought it was great," said Michelle Chmura, a 24-year veteran of the city police force. "I was so surprised. Right now, no one really knows it's me except for my family."
The police officer was originally going to be blond, but was made a brunet to match Michelle's hair. But that's about where the similarities end.
The doll's waist is much wider than Michelle's to prevent young children from swallowing the toys.
"It certainly doesn't make me look like Barbie," she joked.
And instead of a protective, bomb-sniffer police dog, Duran has a softer and more puppy-like appearance. Duran, a name which Fisher-Price trademarked, holds a stop sign in one hand and has a badge on his collar. Children can even put him in the driver's seat of the police cruiser.
The Michelle and Duran dolls are part of the Little People Discovery Village and are available for a retail price of $10 exclusively at Toys "R" Us stores.
Fisher-Price says this is not the first time a local person has inspired a toy. One figure took its name from a girl at the Fisher-Price Play Lab. Another employee modeled a toy after his son who loves frogs.
While the dolls will have an easy time keeping the peace in the Fisher-Price's serene Discovery Village, Chmura and Duran face much tougher challenges.
Chmura and Duran are often the ones called when someone finds a suspicious package or makes a bomb threat. So far, Duran has not found any real explosives.
While Duran is friendly to strangers and even playful with children, he's all business in the police cruiser. Once inside the car, Duran will snap at even Chmura's husband. And the German shepherd always sits on her left because she carries her gun on her right side.
"He's very protective," she said. "He takes his job very seriously."
In addition to sniffing for explosives, Duran can track down items or suspects. He recently found a dye pack from a bank robbery.
Duran was born and trained in the Czech Republic and responds only to Czechoslovakian commands.
The Chmuras own two other police dogs, which are also German shepherds born and trained in the Czech Republic. Hassan, 9, retired a few years ago from active duty, and Garo, 2, will take Duran's place when he retires.