Winhall has a new 4-legged officer patrolling the streets

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WINHALL — It has been just over one month since Gunnar, the newest member of the Winhall Police Department, graduated from patrol school and joined Cpl. Jeremiah Rogers as his four-legged partner.

"(We have) an unspeakable bond," Rogers said. "He goes home with me, goes to work with me. Right now, he is in the car with me at Dunkin Donuts. It's like having a partner on the road, willing to do whatever to keep you safe and get the job done."

Gunnar partnered with Rogers late in the summer 2017 when the German shepherd was 8 weeks old. The duo began a six-week-long drug detection training program this past April, where Gunnar was taught to recognize five different drug types: meth, cocaine, heroin, crack and ecstasy.

Gunnar is not a single-purpose K9. Gunnar and Rogers also participated in a 16-week patrol training starting in July. Patrol tasks include tracking, building searches, evidence recovery, area searches and apprehending suspects.

The pair graduated from patrol school at the Vermont Police Academy on Nov. 16.

The duo must continue to train 16 hours per month to maintain the K9 certification.

Winhall Chief Jeff Whitesell is thrilled to have Gunnar as part of the team, especially because its been roughly 10 years since the Winhall department last had a police dog. To Whitesell, having a K9 readily available is "critical."

"(Rogers) is a dedicated and proactive officer," Whitesell said. "He has all the traits for a K9 handler, so it was a natural fit. Gunnar has already had two significant drug seizures involving heroin and crack."

Obedience was the biggest challenge Rogers faced with Gunnar.

"At 6 months, his focus was a little difficult, but overall it was a great experience," Rogers said. "We put in a lot of effort and got a lot of results out of it."

When Gunnar does not have his K9 collar on, he is a loving, family pet at home to Rogers' 3-year-old son.

Gunnar comes from Kennel Zo Slovenskeho Dvora, owned by Anton and Claudia Paluch in Trumbull, Conn. The couple, originally from Slovakia, breeds, raises and donates police dogs.

Anton and Whitesell have created a strong friendship over the years, and Gunnar was donated to the Winhall unit.

According to Anton, most dogs are donated by Dream Ride to honor fallen soldiers.

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