NORTH SMITHFIELD – If you’re thinking about getting lost anytime soon, you’ll probably have better luck in another town.
The North Smithfield Police Department has just sworn in Joery, a police dog whose many talents include scent-tracking missing humans. And – oh yeah, don’t even think about running away from the cops, because if Joery’s snout isn’t enough to rein you in, the teeth may come into play.
“This dog can probably search out an entire building in the same time it would take five of our police officers,” says Police Chief Steven E. Reynolds. “It’s great protection for our police officers, too.”
Joery (pronounced Yuri) was given to the town for free by the state police after Supt. Colonel Steven G. O’Donnell learned the department had an officer willing to serve as the dog’s handler – a significant commitment.
That officer is Patrolman Jay Rainville, a former Foster policeman who has worked for the department for about 18 months. Rainville had been asking Reynolds about opportunities for becoming a K-9 handler for the department even before its former police dog, Vasko, went into retirement last year.
“It’s a lot of work but it’s something I’ve always been drawn to,” says Rainville. “I just love dogs.”
Supt. O’Donnell found out about an opening for a canine police handler at the town department’s recent awards ceremony, where Vasko was officially recognized for his dedication and meritorious service upon the occasion of his retirement. Vasko might not have been ready to be put out to pasture, but he didn’t have much choice, because his handler, Lt. Jared Salinaro, had gotten a promotion that changed his work schedule, making it impractical to partner-up with the dog on a regular patrol.
State Police Capt. James Manni said Supt. O’Donnell is a big believer in supporting the state’s municipal police departments however he can. In this case, the state police had more dogs than willing handlers, so it could afford to free one up to another department.
Not every police officer jumps at the opportunity to be a K-9 handler because the officer must provide care for the animal full-time for the professional relationship they share to gel properly. It takes up a lot of personal time for which the officer is basically uncompensated.
“Canine handlers are really a very special breed of police officers,” says Manni. “They’re some of the most dedicated officers you’ve ever met.”
The state police have already made an investment in purchasing and training Joery that represents perhaps $20,000. As Chief Reynolds put it, the local department acquired him for “the bubble.”
Town Administrator Paulette Hamilton said she and members of the police force couldn’t be more pleased by O’Donnell’s gesture.
“It’s a gift we just couldn’t have ever imagined getting,” she says.
While Joery is fully trained, the next step in transitioning him to a full-time K-9 is to get him working in sync with his new handler.
Rainville, 27, says Joery has been living with him for about three weeks now. Rainville also has a Weimariner named Rawling at home. The two dogs are great company for each other and get along super, he says.
While the department’s former police dog was a German Shepherd, Joery is a similar but distinct breed known as a Belgian Malinois. They are sleeker, quicker and more agile than shepherds, and generally weigh in 30 or 40 pounds lighter than a shepherd when fully mature.
Because they’re more easily manageable and athletic than their brawnier cousins, the Belgian Malinois has become an increasingly popular choice for law enforcement agencies. The Belgian Malinois is a favorite of the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Armed Forces and the Israel Defense Forces. The United States Navy Seals used a Belgian Malinois military canine named Cairo in Operation Neptune Spear, in which Osama bin Laden was killed.
Born in Holland, Joery was bred as a working dog and is five years old, according to Rainville. He began training for a career in law enforcement since he was about year old at a special school in South Carolina.
Like many Belgian Malinois dogs, Joery is a trained bomb-sniffer. Reynolds isn’t sure how much call there’ll be for Joery’s explosive-hunting skills, but if there is a situation where he’s needed – anywhere in the region – the police department will make him and Rainville available to other departments.
Reynolds said the department expects to keep Joery busiest in his other areas of expertise, including building searches, suspect apprehension, tracking lost or missing persons, and officer backup.
Like Vasko, Joery won’t cost taxpayers anything to keep him on the job. Stop & Shop donates his food and the veterinarians at North Smithfield Animal Hospital will provide any medical care he needs at no charge.
His next big assignment at the NSPD: Getting to know Rainville better. In May the two are heading for a weeks-long “patrol school” designed to get Joery and his handler working as a unit.
They’re in it together, says Rainville, but as Joery’s new handler, he thinks he’ll get more out of the training than the dog.
“It’s probably going to be more for me,” he says.