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Hamburg’s K-9 Unit puts fear of dog into suspects

Andre Von Hexenheim – also known as Endy – was a year and a half old when he joined the Town of Hamburg Police Department in May 2009. Born in Hungary, the 85-pound German shepherd was trained in patrol work and understood commands in German.

He and Officer Nicholas Borowski became the first K-9 Unit for the department. They recently helped apprehend one of the suspects connected to a string of Southtowns break-ins. Borowski and Endy were both asleep at home when they received the call at 4:15 a.m. that two burglars had been spotted and that one was believed to be on the run in Lakeview.

Borowski, who is 36, has worked 12 years with the Hamburg department. He loves his job – even though he really wanted to be a firefighter. He and his wife, Diane, have two children.

People Talk: So tell me what happened the night you and Endy caught the burglar.

Nicholas Borowski: My wife, Diane, is a big part of the K-9 unit. When we get called out in the middle of the night, as I get ready she’s getting the dog ready. I start getting dressed, and she’ll take the dog outside, start the car up and put the dog in the car.

PT: What happened when you arrived at the scene?

NB: The patrol officers could see a little bit of a footprint and there were enough guys there to set up a perimeter surrounding the woods, which is the best thing they can do for us. Normally, if the suspect is running, we can’t track him as fast as he’s running. It’s almost impossible to catch someone under those circumstances.

PT: What do the officers do after they call you?

NB: They don’t go any further. They just stop because if they go in and try to look for him, they make it 10 times more difficult for us. They contaminate the area. So we had an area of woods with just the suspect’s odor, no one else’s. It took about two minutes to find the suspect.

PT: How did Endy find him?

NB: I laid Endy down, gave him the command and just 150 yards in he found the suspect lying on the ground. When Endy got close, the guy started to scream saying: “Don’t shoot me. Don’t bite me.” I told him to put his hands out, and that’s what he did.

PT: What are police dogs trained to do?

NB: Criminal apprehension, tracking, finding a person in the building, biting the bad guy and obedience.

PT: Where do they bite?

NB: Arms and legs. We don’t necessarily train them to bite the face or neck.

PT: How long does it take to train a police dog?

NB: The dog is a titled dog, which means they already have a sport background in Europe.

PT: How much does a police dog cost?

NB: Endy was $6,000. He was half-trained. It’s close to $1,000 just to ship a dog over here from Europe.

PT: Did you two bond right away?

NB: Yes. A lot of time you get these dogs from overseas and they have problems socializing with people or kids. Kids are a big thing. Or maybe something happens to them on the plane ride because they’re in a crate. So something scares them, and they’re not the dog here that they were advertised to be. A lot of these companies sell these dogs online, so you can watch a video of a dog doing its thing online, and they’ll sell it to you but they’ll ship you something that looks just like it. They say the best dogs go to the government. The very best dogs they keep for breeding.

PT: How did you pick this one out?

NB: Endy was brought here with three other dogs from Birkenhof Kennels in Derby, Conn. I walked them all, threw the ball for them to see their ball drive. All their work is toy driven. A couple of the dogs were big, and he was only 60-some pounds at the time. When we actually started to walk, he walked with me as opposed to taking me for a walk. I felt like maybe he would be better suited for me. These other dogs already wanted to own me. They wanted to be the alpha male.

PT: Where does he stay during your shift?

NB: The whole back seat of the truck is a big dog cage, so he has plenty of room. He just lives back there for eight hours. We stop several times to let him run, play ball and go to the bathroom.

PT: How do you keep him in shape?

NB: He’s a very anxious dog. He doesn’t relax. The only time he relaxes is at night when we shut everything down in the house and no one is around. Otherwise he’s pacing around.

PT: Did you want to be a cop as a kid?

NB: I wanted to be a firefighter. I was in the Marine Corps, and when I got out I went to Erie Community College for criminal justice. And then I realized all these jobs were through civil service. You must take a test to be eligible, but you don’t necessarily need a college degree. So I switched my study to fire protection because I wanted to be a paid fireman. I was accepted in FDNY and I went down there looking for a place to live. I decided I could not live in New York City.

email: jkwiatkowski@buffnews.com