|By G. Michael Dobbs
Angel Ortiz and Alizeah Rodriguez, fourth graders at White Street School, suggested the "Hunter" for Springfield's newest police dog. Pictured are the two students with Hunter and Officer Tommy Horne.
Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD For veteran Springfield Police Officer Tommy Horne the contest to name his new canine partner by the fourth graders at the White Street School was more than a way to engage students it was also a way to give back to the school he once attended.
Horne recalled during the ceremony to announce the new name of his American-bred German shepherd that when he was a child attending the school in the mid-1970s a visit by a Springfield police officer and his dog made an impression.
Undoubtedly Horne made a similar impression on the 42 fourth graders when he announced that, after reading the essays they wrote on a name for his dog, he selected "Hunter," a name suggested by both Angel Ortiz and Alizeah Rodriguez.
Horne has spent 18 of his 21 years on the force as a canine officer and needed to replace his dog Marco after 10 years of service. His new dog, Hunter, was initially trained by Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation in Bloomfield, Conn. and is the first American-bred dog the Police Department has had.
The Springfield Kennel Club donated $1,500 to pay for the dog.
Eliot Russman, the CEO and executive director of Fidelco, explained that Hunter, like the other dogs trained by the nonprofit organization, are evaluated whether to not they are suited to be guide dogs, police dogs or pets. Russman said the organization does not undertake the specialized training the police dogs need, but instead provide basic obedience classes, which takes 12 to 18 months.
Only a small percentage of their dogs go to law enforcement, he added.
Horne said that Hunter is "very smart" and added, "He watches everything that I do."
So far, Hunter has shown talent as a tracking dog, he said.
The two students who named the dog were able to meet Hunter and Horne. Although they were shy in front of the press, both admitted they wanted to be police officers when they grew up.
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