Two new Norwalk police dogs take bite out of crime
The two newest members of the Norwalk Police Department have brought the department's K-9 unit to full strength.
Meet Czar, a 2-year-old Belgium shepherd dog called a Malinois, and Rainor, a black German shepherd.
The two police dogs joined the four-dog unit -- which over the past two years lost two dogs to disease and injury -- about six weeks ago.
Czar got his stripes a month into the job when he tracked down accused murderer Gilbert Orlando on June 14 hiding in "the densest, thickest terrain I have ever gone through," said his handler, veteran K-9 officer Frank Reda.
After being rapelled down a 14-foot rock ledge, Czar found Orlando hiding in the brush next to Interstate 95 with a loaded .357 magnum pistol within four hours after Orlando allegedly shot and killed his former wife, Enid Dickens, 56, and her mother, Rona Knight, 73.
"He is like a machine, a young machine that knows no bounds. I haven't found his limitations yet," Reda said of Czar.
Rainor hasn't been slouching either.
Ten days after Czar got his man, Rainor was on assignment to a joint Norwalk police and Drug Enforcement Agency roundup of 19 drug suspects. While arresting one of the men to cap the end of Operation Hammertime, Rainor found a kilo of cocaine hidden in a freezer. His handler, officer David Peterson, said he smelled the frozen drugs through the closed freezer door.
"He has a very good nose," said Peterson, a five-year member of the department and since April 15 the K-9 Unit's newest dog handler.
Sgt. Andre Velez, who commands the K-9 Unit, called the loss of police dogs Axel and Zarkl a "tragedy."
The unit was at a crossroads, and it took a while to determine whether it would carry on with two dogs or return to full strength, Velez said.
Another dog, Kahn, also handled by Reda and since 1992 responsible for the seizure of $5 million in cash, drugs, vehicles and property, has been placed in semi-retirement.
Velez, the department's senior sergeant, said the two dogs had to be put down because they were suffering from spinal and neural degeneration and in pain.
"We were reluctant to go back to the community for donations," for the unit, Velez said.
Reda, who is involved in training and breeding, found and bought the two dogs and donated them to the department, Velez said.
"The department has been good to me about doing what I want with the dogs and so I wanted to give back. And I know these two dogs were the right fit for the unit," Reda said.
Czar's father is a ring champion and his mother works for the Department of Defense. He was purchased in Connecticut.
Rainor came from the Czech Republic. Most of the commands made to the two dogs are in German.
Peterson said Rainor is a high energy dog and is ready to work at any time.
Velez said both dogs are social and under total control by their handlers.
Reda said his previous working dog, Kahn, went on thousands of callouts to Stamford, New Canaan and Wilton and worked with the FBI and DEA. He seized $832,000 in cash earlier this year. Reda said he wanted to see the 9-year-old dog go out at the top of his game.
Kahn is now at Reda's rural home and plays with his children.
"He is learning to become a house dog. He is a work dog in his heart and he is learning to be a dog. For the first time in his life he can relax and play with kids," Reda said.