Officer Sarah Bellavance has taken on the task of K9 handler for the South Burlington Police Department, introducing the newest recruit, K9 Rumble, to the community. 

K9 Rumble Joins the Force

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Thursday July 13, 2017

Every dog has his day and for Rumble, the new K9 recruit at the South Burlington Police Department (SBPD), that day has come. Along for the adventure, as well as for the rigorous training and substantial responsibility, is SBPD Officer Sarah Bellavance; and she would not have it any other way. “It’s a huge responsibility and privilege,” says Officer Bellavance, adding, “This position is very highly sought-after and I am honored and excited to be the new handler.”

Officer Bellavance, who has been with the SBPD for four years, applied for the K9 handler position, noting that it is something she has always wanted to do. A self-professed animal lover who currently has horses, dogs, cats, chickens and ducks, she says, “I have trained my personal dog in agility and obedience in the past and have always wanted to work with animals in my profession.”

For his part, K9 Rumble, a 15-week-old male German Shepherd, has been with the SBPD less than a month. He came to the department from a Vermont breeder who specializes in breeding German Shepherds with the traits of “sound solid nerves, excellent tracking abilities, well-balanced character and stable temperaments.” Many of their dogs are used as Vermont police K9s. Officer Bellavance had the task of naming the new recruit. “I wanted a name which was in between tough and approachable as SBPD tries to be involved in its community,” says the officer who hopes Rumble will be able to visit schools.

Rumble has big paws to fill. SBPD sadly lost K9 Kaiser at the beginning of 2017. Kaiser served the SBPD from July 2008 until his passing. A dedicated servant to the community, he not only participated in countless demonstrations for kids, according to the department, he helped get drugs off the street and find missing persons. Kaiser’s K9 handler was Corporal Mark Redmond, who SBPD Chief Whipple described as “a most compassionate and faithful handler.”

Officially, K9 Rumble is already on duty, but as Officer Bellavance explains, “Right now, as I do paperwork, he gets to sleep at my feet chase tennis balls, try to eat shoes, and be adorable. We’re focusing on socialization and manners. In the future he will be trained in tracking of suspects, searches and recovery of evidence, searches for narcotics as well as searches for lost/missing individuals.”

The two will soon begin training together. “Rumble and I will go to drug school in a February/March time frame, then patrol school next July,” says Officer Bellavance, adding, “We will both learn how to be a working K9 team together.” This includes training so the dog can be utilized by other agencies as well.

According to the National Law Enforcement Museum, K9 police dogs have been in service since the early 20th century, although the use of dogs to serve and protect dates back more than 2,000 years. German Shepherds in particular are often preferred by law enforcement because of their strength, intelligence, and obedience.

“Most people are cautious of police K9s,” reports Officer Bellavance. This, of course, is understandable as most K9s are trained in bite work.

In addition, K9s are often not to be interrupted as they are on-the-job. Officer Bellavance notes that most people ask permission to approach Rumble. She adds, “I encourage people right now, while he is a puppy, to come up and ask to pet him. When he is older and trained, as long as I’m not on a call, if people ask to pet him I will let them know if they can or not. I may have to tell them ‘no’ if we are headed to a call or actively dealing with something.” Meanwhile, when Rumble is not Bellavance’s partner at work, he is her pet at home.

Bellavance says, “What other position can you say you get to go to work with your dog every day, be around them nearly 24/7, find missing people, and work as a tight knit team? I’m excited to have my new best friend with me every day and help the SBPD fight crime!”

From the moment K9 Rumble’s photo graced the department’s Facebook page, residents from around the city were smitten with the pup. It might be because of Rumble’s antennae-like ears, which he will eventually grow into, or his apparent ability to pose for a photo. Either way, like all dogs, Rumble is sure to be a gift to the community, in service and dedication, for years.

SOURCE: Carole Vasta Folley, The Other Paper