LEE -- The Lee Police Department's newest officer may be small in stature, but he wears a big smile -- and he works cheap.
Kumar, a two-and-half foot tall, 65 pound German shepherd, recently joined the department's first-ever canine unit to assist in the search for suspects, missing persons, drugs and other evidence of a crime.
At 16 months old, the youngest officer on the police force is eager to obey on command -- free of charge -- according to Kumar's handler, Officer Craig DeSantis.
"We let him work for praise and his toy, that's his paycheck," he said.
PHOTO GALLERY | K-9 officer Kumar is new to the Lee Police Department
Lee has joined Pittsfield, Lanesborough, North Adams, Williamstown and the Berkshire Sheriff's Office on the list of local law enforcement agencies with canine units. Kumar has been on the job for about a month.
Earlier this year, Lee police received a $25,000 private grant from the New York-based Stanton Foundation, which paid for acquiring Kumar, initial training for DeSantis and other expenses for a three-year period. Beyond that, the police department may explore raising other private donations for the annual estimated $3,000 to $4,000 needed to maintain the canine unit beyond the three-year grant.
DeSantis and Kumar first teamed up in mid-July at a Pennsylvania kennel that specializes in police dogs. The pair went through an intense six-week training course that included DeSantis learning Dutch, in part, because Kumar hails from the Netherlands. Use of a foreign language also avoids miscommunication between the crime-fighting partners.
"Almost all the commands are in Dutch so the dog is clear on his commands versus me giving a another person commands," DeSantis said.
On Thursday, DeSantis demonstrated Kumar's searching abilities by tossing a set of keys -- without Kumar looking -- onto the lawn of the town park next to Lee Memorial Town Hall.
Once Kumar picked up a scent from the keys, he laid down next to them and looked back at DeSantis, careful not to touch the "evidence" from a fictional stolen car.
"We wouldn't want him to retrieve it, especially a gun," he said. "Kumar is trained as passive-alert; to lay down and point his nose toward the evidence."
When not on duty, Kumar spends his off-time living with the DeSantis family and their 12-year-old Labrador retriever.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
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