New CPD Officer Dunkin adjusting to police life

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Canton Police Department K9 Officer Dunkin, one of the newest members of the force, joined the department in July. His partner, Officer Robert Zepf, is spending his shifts familiarizing Dunkin with a police officer’s daily routine and introducing him to residents who are running errands in Canton Center. Dunkin, a black English Labrador, was seven weeks old when he started his career in Canton. He is now nearly six months old and weighs about 50 pounds.

Officer Robert Zepf and Dunkin (Mary Ann Price photo)

Officer Zepf and Dunkin (Mary Ann Price photo)

Funded in part by a large donation from Canton-based Dunkin’ Brands, Dunkin is the department’s second police dog, joining K9 Bosco, a German shepherd who is paired with Officer Scott Brown.

Zepf was one of several officers who were interested in working with a canine. “It was a formal interview process,” he said. “I was lucky enough to get picked.”

After Dunkin arrived, Zepf took him home, where he met Zepf’s two dogs, another black English Lab and a Vizsla, a Hungarian breed of dog. Zepf brought his two dogs home together and they share a kennel. He said that the arrival of Dunkin, who has a separate kennel, led the two older dogs to set some boundaries. In the last month, they have become more accustomed to sharing their home with a third dog.

The two officers work between 40 and 75 hours each week. “He works every hour I work,” Zepf said.

When Dunkin joined the force, Zepf placed a small platform for Dunkin’s kennel on the passenger area and the puppy traveled next to his partner in the front seat of his cruiser. Dunkin eventually outgrew that kennel, and the two now work in a cruiser that was assigned to Zepf a few weeks ago. The cruiser has been repurposed with a roomy cage for Dunkin, thanks to the Canton Association of Business and Industry. Dunkin travels in a large space just behind his partner. There is a small window-like opening that Zepf can lower so that Dunkin can put his head into the front seat area.

A typical shift begins with a trip to Canton Center, where Zepf and Dunkin greet residents and drop in to businesses.

“We walk the square downtown on Washington Street,” Zepf said. “I’ll take him in and out. I try to socialize him. Everyone wants to pat him.”

If Zepf is assigned to the desk at the police station, Dunkin might spend part of the shift in a kennel at the station. More often than not, however, he spends time in the office that belongs to his boss, Police Chief Ken Berkowitz. “The chief loves him,” Zepf said.

Zepf has trained his own two dogs, but not Dunkin. An officer from the Massachusetts Department of Corrections will train the young dog. Zepf explained that the training officer prefers to do all the training so that Dunkin will be successful in his career as a passive narcotics detection dog. Once Dunkin is trained, Zepf will place a special collar with a badge around his neck that he will wear only when searching for drugs. The collar will cue him that it is time to go to work. When he arrives at a site, Dunkin will search an area by sniffing for drugs. Once he finds them, he will sit passively next to them.

To date, Dunkin knows his name and understands what Zepf means when he says ‘No’ or ‘Leave it’ if he is eating or chewing on something that he should not. Zepf has not even taught his partner what ‘Sit’ means. If he wants Dunkin to sit, he pushes down on Dunkin’s rear haunches. He demonstrated the technique recently, noting that Dunkin does not always follow through. Dunkin remained standing quietly and resolutely on all four paws.

“Dunkin Donuts was kind enough and generous enough to purchase the dog,” Chief Berkowitz said. He added that Dunkin’s training will be made possible by federal forfeiture money, monies that were seized from convicted drug dealers. Berkowitz estimated that the training will begin in the late winter or early spring of 2016 and that Dunkin will graduate from the program by the summer.

Zepf enjoys working with the partner he describes as rambunctious. “I like his personality,” he said. “He’s very unique.”

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