By Emily Fedor
Last month, the Dunmore Police Department was provided with a special set of wheels—complete with a state of the art, temperature-controlled cage—to accommodate the newest member of the force.
Patrolman John “Jack” Kane had always wanted to be a K9 handler, and shortly after joining the department in 2013, the University of Scranton grad adopted an eight-week-old German shepherd pup named Riley.
Between her large puppy paws and the law enforcement work in her bloodline, Kane saw a lot of potential in Riley and wasted no time in seeing what she was made of.
“I started training her at 10 weeks old,” Kane said. “I obviously started off with the basic training—you know, “sit down” and all that kind of stuff.”
Riley progressed through Kane’s basic training with ease, which made him think she could handle something more challenging. Before long, Riley was enrolled in classes at Alan Finn’s Designing Dogs in Old Forge.
Finn works with numerous police dogs in the area, including Riley, and teaches them advanced obedience as well as search and rescue and apprehension techniques to prepare them for what they can encounter while on duty.
“We set up real-life scenarios like searching a car for drugs or having a felon flee,” said Finn. “[We] also socialize the dogs properly so they can be in groups of people and groups of dogs.”
Riley trains with Finn for one hour twice a week, but she also trains daily with Kane, who has had to put in his own fair share of work into Riley’s training process.
Under Finn’s guidance, Kane and Riley have learned three different languages: English (Riley’s everyday language), German (her speed or work language), and Spanish (her fun language).
“When I do drug work and bite work, [German] is her work language. Once I give her words, she knows it’s time to work,” said Kane. “Then every time I say a word in Spanish, she knows she gets a treat right after.”
When Kane was promoted to a full-time officer position this past August, he approached a number of people, including Chief of Police Salvador Marchese, Mayor Patrick Loughney, police department liaison Michael Dempsey and Councilman Thomas Hallinan, about bringing Riley on to the force as a K9 unit.
Kane said the reception to the idea was amazing, and everyone was very supportive. But the process of making Riley an official member of the department took time as the DPD hasn’t had a K9 unit for a number of years.
Sarge, a black, male German shepherd was the last Dunmore police dog. He served alongside retired Captain Jason Hubshman from 2000 to 2008.
Hubshman, who went on countless car and building searches with Sarge, is glad to see another dog working on the force as he said having an active K9 unit is a definite asset.
“It’s like adding another member of the police department. A dog knows what to do and when to do it,” Hubshman said. “It adds another resource that they can use.”
After the department created an updated policy detailing the role of a K9 unit and the liabilities of having one on the force, Riley—now two years of age—was officially added to the police roster and given her own bullet proof vest in mid-April.
Rumor has it that Riley and our brave men and woman in blue are getting along well. Kane said during downtime at the station, Riley enjoys playing with her fellow officers and occasionally giving out a few kisses.
Detective Alicia Hallinan said the department has loved working with Riley so far and that everyone is very excited to have a K9 on the force again.
“Riley is like a super-cop. Dogs have a heightened sense of smell that can detect things that human beings cannot, and she had the advantage of four legs so she can run much faster than any of us,” said Hallinan. “Riley loves the job, and we love having her on our team.”
Kane has no doubt Riley will prove to be a great addition to not only the Dunmore Police Department, but the borough of Dunmore as a whole.
“Riley’s priority is the borough of Dunmore and the residents of Dunmore,” said Kane. “We do the D.A.R.E. program at schools, so I can bring her down and show her to the kids. A lot of people like dogs, so it’s great community-oriented policing.”
Despite the belief that police dogs are cold and mean on and off the clock, Finn said that Riley is extremely friendly and social—an important trait for a K9 unit to possess.
And when she’s not at work, Kane said that 84-pound Riley can be found lounging around their Dunmore home or playing with her brother—a seven-pound Bijon Maltese named Marty.
“When she’s doing her work, she does what she’s ordered,” said Kane, “but when she’s not working, she’s just your average dog.”