Hamden Hall Country Day School’s Lower School Assembly recently went to the dogs — literally — as Hunter, an 8-year-old German Shepherd with the Hamden Police Department’s K-9 Unit, strutted his skills and performed some paw play under students’ watchful eyes.
Hamden Police Officer Craig Appleby brought his partner and housemate, Hunter, to Hamden Hall and entertained his audience with various tricks and commands — not to mention a lesson or two about the canine’s prowess for police work.
“Hunter is a multi-purpose dog and executes three tasks,” explained Appleby. “He is narcotics-based and he searches for people and bites bad guys. He is trained to only listen to my commands so that when I’m working as a policeman he reacts to me.”
To prove his point, the officer proceeded to issue commands in German – the original language used with Hunter when he was a pup in the Czech Republic. “Platz and sitz” resulted in Hunter lying down and sitting, respectively.
Students were asked the most important feature on a dog (answer: nose) and learned that Hunter can smell seven different scents – all of which are employed during an official man hunt.
“Think of it like a pizza,” said Appleby. “He can smell seven different ingredients.”
Hunter works eight-hour shifts alongside Appleby and is one of three canines in the police department’s K-9 Unit. He was purchased for just under $6,000 via grant funding. According to Appleby, the department is seeking a fourth dog.
"It was a pleasure having Officer Appleby and his canine partner, Hunter, come to our Hamden Hall school community," said Hamden Hall Lower School Director Lorri Carroll. "The students were fascinated with the dog and eager to ask questions of his handler. It's important for our students to understand and appreciate the work of the Hamden Police K-9 Unit and the police department in general."
One question students had for the officer was how long it took to train Hunter. Appleby explained that Hunter came to him partially trained but then the two underwent a nine-week course at the Police Academy together. Hunter learned obedience through the use of a toy ball.
“He thinks he’s playing and making me happy, but really he’s learning to be obedient,” he said.
The officer commanded that Hunter lie down on one of the stage risers and remain there despite the fact that his master was moving away from him. Hunter stayed where he was until called, at which time he was rewarded with his ball. Appleby said the two perform “tricks” together each day in order to keep Hunter fresh and alert.
Hunter lives with the officer and his family and will be eligible to “retire” from his K-9 position in another year or two. Once in retirement, Hunter will continue living in the Appleby home.