A cold and wet new nose has hit the streets of Trenton with unit's German shepherd Truax.
Trenton Police officer Mike Hawkins, 34, is 3-year-old Truax's handler. The two patrol the streets of Trenton with one thing in mind--fighting crime.
Truax is set to officially become a member of the Trenton Police Department at 8 p.m. Monday during a swearing in ceremony at a city council meeting at .
There are currently two German shepherds patrolling the city of Trenton all hours of the night.
Trenton Police officer Rick Tanguay, 41, is the handler for veteran police dog Kopper, 10, named by Tanguay's three children for one of the dogs in the Disney movie, "The Fox and the Hound." Tanguay said his children liked the name, but insisted it be spelled with a "K."
Kopper has been a staple of crime fighting in Trenton since 2000, and as he gets older his retirement is eminent. Tanguay said he doesn’t plan to retire Kopper anytime soon, but Truax was brought in to replace Kopper when Tanguay decides to let Kopper enjoy his golden years away from the police department.
Hawkins and Truax began patrolling the city in June.
Hawkins said the department might bring in another dog, after Kopper retires, to continue to have a night shift dog each day of the week to help keep the city safe from drugs and criminals.
While other police departments were naming their dogs cliché names like Justice and Magnum, Hawkins said he wanted to give Truax a unique name that means something to the city of Trenton. He named the dog after the founder of Trenton, Major Abram Caleb Truax.
Tanguay has been a handler for Trenton Police since 1995 when he received the responsibility of training and utilizing former Trenton police dog Kevlar, which retired in 2001 and died in 2002.
"The worst day in a dog handler's career is when they finally die," Tanguay said. "You have to remember we spend more time with our dogs than, sometimes, we do with our families."
Work Continues at Home
Each officer works a 12-hour shift with their respective dogs and the dogs go home with them at the end of their shifts.
Hawkins and Tanguay said not every police officer is cut out for the K-9 unit and each volunteered for the job.
Officers are required to have a fenced in yard and must allow the dog to live with them and their families full time.
Tanguay and his wife, Nikki, have three children Brady, 15, McKenna, 12 and Aleah, 6. Hawkins and his wife, Staycee, have two boys Drew, 6, and Anthony, 3. Each member of the family helps care for and nurture the police dogs.
Tanguay and Hawkins said they consider their dogs a part of the family.
"This is more of a commitment, not only for you as a handler, but your whole family," Tanguay said. "Your wife has to deal with, if you go out for the evening, your dog needs to be let out. The dogs have separation anxiety from us, and they can be a real pain at home until they get used to it."
Hawkins said when he comes home from work his boys ask him everyday if he and Truax caught any bad guys.
"They love him," Hawkins said.
Training and Bonding
Initial training is rigorous. Dogs and handlers work together between eight to 10 hours per day Monday through Friday for the first month. Training becomes less rigorous as the handler and the dog begin working together effectively.
Truax was acquired by the city through Van der Haus Gill German shepherds and K-9 Police Academy. Hawkins received the dog untrained.
"They (police dogs) don't come trained," Hawkins said. "When you buy them you have to train them to sit and all the (other) commands. A lot of people have this misconception you get this dog and it's ready to work on the road."
Hawkins added he not only had to train Truax to perform police related functions he also had to potty train the dog.
Not all police departments receive untrained dogs, but Tanguay said taking on an untrained dog allows the handler and the dog to learn together and often the bond between dog and handler becomes stronger.
Tanguay is a master trainer who works with the K-9 Academy Training Facility in Wayne, MI, which is where Hawkins and Truax receive nearly all of their training.
Hawkins now trains with Truax each Wednesday and he said he and the dog continue to learn new things, and his bond with Truax continues to grow.
Meet the Trenton Police Department K-9 Unit
Schools and organizations in Trenton wishing to meet Kopper and Truax should call the Trenton Police Department administration, 734-676-7095, and request a demonstration.