The newest addition to the Riverhead Police Department was introduced Thursday to the Town Board.
Odinn, a German shepherd who hails from Holland, joined K-9 officer John Morris in Riverhead Town Hall, more than two months after K-9 Rocky died in a car crash during a police pursuit.
Mr. Morris, who had been paired with Rocky for seven years, is now undergoing 18 to 20 weeks of training with Odinn, whose name come from Germanic mythology.
Odinn is about 18 months old.
Mr. Morris said the reason police dogs often come from Europe — Rocky was from Poland — is becomes they have clean blood lines since the breeding practices are stricter in Europe.
In addition, Odinn’s ancestry line is filled with dogs who had worked with police, he said.
“A number of the behaviors I want to him to do, he does naturally. He wants to do them,” Mr. Morris said. “He kind of almost instinctively knows some of them.”
Odinn already knows a full gamut of commands.
The first few weeks of training is simply bonding with Mr. Morris, his handler.
“Odinn and I will become best friends,” he said. After that comes obedience training.
In Suffolk County, the primary use for police dogs is for tracking either a suspect or a missing person. A dog’s smell is so sharp it can tell if someone has walked across grass, Mr. Morris said.
“In 1978, when they first brought the police dogs in, everybody said ‘What do they need dogs for?’ ” said Councilman Jim Wooten, a retired town police officer.
“But it’s such an integral part of police work. I can’t imagine department without a dog now,” he said.
Mr. Morris said when he was assigned Rocky, he had no idea what goes into training and the amount of work it takes for a dog to become a K-9 cop. He said some of the things Rocky would do amazed him.
“He would do something where I would be thinking ‘No way that he just did that,’ ” Mr. Morris recalled.
Odinn’s initial training should be completed around February if all goes as planned, and he and Mr. Morris will go back for about 10 weeks of speciality training after that. Training is done in Yaphank at the Suffolk County Police Department. Suffolk County currently has 22 K-9 units. The K-9s from East End departments all train together with Suffolk police.
“By this time next year, he’ll be fully trained,” Mr. Morris said.
The town received two donations of $7,500 apiece to pay for the cost of buying and training Odinn. Riverhead’s other K-9 is named Titan, a German shepherd who works with handler John Doscinski.
Residents Ron Hariri and Colleen O’Brien made one of the $7,500 donations and Island Federal Credit Union made the other $7,500 donation.
Mr. Morris thanked the public, the Town Board, the police department and Chief David Hegermiller.
“The outpouring of support was amazing,” he said.
Top photo caption: Riverhead police officer John Morris with Odinn at Thursday’s Town Board meeting. (Credit: Tim Gannon)