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K-9 partners getting acquainted as first step in crime-fighting role

After spending the weekend getting acquainted, it's time for the Town of Tonawanda Police Department's newest crime-fighting team to get down to business.

Officer Brent G. Costello met his new partner, Ox, a 2-year-old German shepherd that arrived from the Czech Republic on Thursday night.

"He was a little jet-lagged," Costello said. "He's nervous around new people."

For the next several months, the two will train for 10 hours a day, four days a week, in St. Catharines, Ont., under the guidance of Sgt. Jeffrey Hopkins of the Niagara Regional Police Service, a dog trainer who is renowned throughout the United States and Canada.

Their training will include narcotics detection, as well as searching and tracking. Ox already received some training in the Czech Republic, where he was born in May 2007.

Costello, a 10-year veteran of the department, was among four officers who applied for the job of K-9 officer.

"It's a very unique . . . opportunity," he said.

The K-9 team is expected to be ready for duty in January.

"I've had dogs all my life," Costello said, and Ox will be not only his work partner, but a member of the household.

The German shepherd gradually will be introduced to a 10-year-old Rottweiler that's already part of the family.

"If they have an aversion to each other. [I'll have] to keep them separated," the officer said.

It was in February 2008 that Detective Lt. Joseph F. Carosi first pitched Police Chief Anthony J. Palombo about reviving the K-9 unit, which disbanded about 35 years ago. Carosi was told to go ahead but that he would have to find money outside the budget to pay for it.

Donations from local businesses and residents, along with money from assets forfeited by criminals, covered start-up expenses estimated at $12,000 to $15,000. Donors also offered to pay for a bulletproof vest for Ox.

"It was very kind and generous of people," said Carosi, who praised the Town Board for its support.

"We are just hoping that the dog will pay dividends, in time."


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