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A salute to Vaki: Police K-9 remembered for his love of the job

09/01/2016 12:00 PM |


The Riverhead Town Police Department is down one member after the death of K-9 dog Vaki on Friday afternoon. He was 8.

“It was a rough one,” said officer Jack Doscinski, who had been Vaki’s handler for the past seven years. “But he didn’t give up.”

Mr. Doscinski said his German shepherd partner contracted a neurological disease he believes was caused by a tick bite, leading him to slowly become paralyzed. The dog didn’t appear to be in pain, he said.

Had his condition been diagnosed quickly enough, and if Vaki had responded to treatment, he would still be alive today, Mr. Doscinski said. Instead, the dog is now buried in Mr. Doscinski’s backyard with two of his previous partners, Harley and Gator.

“I can never compare anyone, or say anyone was better because every partner had its own personality,” said Mr. Doscinski, a 26-year member of the force. “But this guy was very driven … The best word is relentless; he would not stop.”

For instance, Mr. Doscinski said, when Vaki was just 18 months old, he broke his leg and had to take time off to heal. But that didn’t suit the dog, who was eager to work.

And in February, Vaki suffered a stomach torsion and had to be sidelined once again.

“Vaki wanted to go all the time,” Mr. Doscinski said. “If he heard me jingle my keys or saw my uniform shirt, or if I moved the police car, he knew it was time to go to work. He was like a kid on Christmas when that happened.”


Riverhead Town police officer John Doscinski with one of the department’s two K-9 dogs, Vaki. (Credit: Nicole Smith / August 2015)

When Vaki broke his leg, it allowed Mr. Doscinski to form a different type of relationship with him than he had with previous partners.

At the time, Vaki’s veterinarian cautioned that he should be protected from cold, damp weather since it would increase his risk of developing arthritis. So, instead of sleeping in a standard fenced-in kennel with a cement floor, Vaki spent his nights next to Mr. Doscinski’s bed.

“He was a pinnacle around here,” Mr. Doscinski said, adding that he has other pet dogs at home, all of whom got along well with Vaki.

In addition to being remembered for his companionship, Vaki is credited with helping in numerous cases, most recently assisting with a large East End Drug Task Force bust.

[Related: These local dogs help our cops in ways a human never could]

A trained narcotics dog, Vaki could also find money. He could detect the smell or residue of narcotics on cash, so even if no drugs were recovered from a scene, police could still determine narcotics had recently been in the area.

“He was the go-to-guy for detecting by nose,” Mr. Doscinski said.

The officer said he’s interested in partnering with another K-9, but no plans are in place yet. The department has another K-9 dog, Rocky, who works with officer John Morris.

“The Riverhead police department would like to recognize Vaki for his years of service,” the department said in a press release. “He will be missed.”

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Top photo credit: Tim Gannon

(Credit: Riverhead Police Department)

(Credit: Riverhead Police Department)