Rush, the South Burlington Police Department new K9 recruit and his handler, Officer Sarah Bellavance.

K9 Rush Reporting to Duty

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Thursday April 05, 2018

Last December, the South Burlington Police Department (SBPD) shared the unfortunate early retirement news of K9 Rumble, a German Shepherd whose at-attention ears and spirited energy enamored the community. When Rumble was diagnosed with elbow dysplasia and required surgery, it preempted his ability to be a police dog. So as Rumble left the department, there was a void in the K9 unit until the beginning of this year, when a certain dog named Rush entered the picture. SBPD K9 Handler, Officer Sarah Bellavance, picked up the new canine recruit in January, a Belgian Malinois (pronounced MAL-in-wah), which according to the American Kennel Club (AKC), “is a world-class worker who forges an unbreakable bond with his human partner.”

Only eight months when picked up, Rush turns one year old this month. Under Officer Bellavance’s supervision, Rush is about to complete Drug Detection School. “Rush is doing fantastic! He is a quick learner and wants to work,” says Bellavance, adding, “Every time I get him out of the car, he gets excited to start working.”

Although one can see Rush’s resemblance to a German Shepherd, the breeds are quite different.

First bred near the city of Malines in the northwest region of Belgium, the Belgian Malinois, “Mals,” as they are known in short, have a different head, are leggier, and finer boned. AKC notes they were first brought to America in 1911 and are highly sought after as police and military K9s. Officer Bellavance adds, “They’re becoming a very popular police dog because of their work ethic.”

When it came to naming the K9 recruit, the officer admits it took “a lot of thinking.” She added, “I had a list of names and had Rush for about two weeks before I committed to it. Because of his speed, Rush seemed to fit him, and it is another less common name.”

Meanwhile, Rush can get a few pointers from the retired Rumble, who is still in Bellavance’s care. The officer stayed true to her commitment as a dog owner and considers Rumble part of the family. After x-rays, CT scans, and visits with specialists, Rumble had surgery on both elbows, which Bellavance paid for with the help of fundraising. The German Shepherd is now one year old and according to Officer Bellavance doing great. “He is back to running around and playing with his dog-brothers and I haven’t seen him limp in a long time. I’m going to find out what makes him happy this summer and try dock-diving or obedience training. He still deserves to have a fun ‘job’.”

Having had the two pups so close together, it is hard not to notice the comparisons, especially since they are only one month apart in age. Certainly, their coloring is dramatically different, but so too seems their personality. Bellavance says, “Rumble was a social butterfly. Rush is a little more reserved. He loves to play but is a bit more cautious of new people than Rumble.” She adds, appropriate to his moniker, “Rush is also much faster than Rumble. Rumble is a goofball and Rush is obsessed with his toys and moves at the speed of light!”

When asked how she handles all her responsibilities, which now includes extra training, Officer Bellavance agrees it is a lot of work, but stresses that animals are her passion. “Sometimes it feels like I’m running a circus, but it sure is fun.”

In July, the two will return to the Vermont Police Academy to attend Patrol School where Rush will learn tracking and patrol work. Meanwhile, Officer Bellavance reports, “I am excited to get on the road and work with my new partner!”


SOURCE: Carole Vasta Folley, The Other Paper