At the end of May, Vader will be fully certified as a K-9 for the Windham Police Department. The one and a half-year-old German shepherd is a ball of curiosity and energy. His trainer and handler is Steven Stubbs a 3-year veteran of the Windham Police Department. Being a K-9 handler has been his dream since he first took his job in Windham.
Vader was born in Belgium in September of 2014. “He’s a green dog. He had no training,” Stubbs said. His breed makes him an easy dog to train. They tend to be more aggressive, more social and still have the drive to work and please. “He has a phenomenal nose on him,” Stubbs said.
Training has been non-stop since Vader arrived. Every Monday Vader and Stubbs get together with other local agencies to train the dogs together. They also train every day in their off time. “It makes it a fulltime job. It’s an eye opening,” Stubbs said. The most fun part of the job, he said, is hanging out with Vader. K9s need 480 hours of training before they are allowed out on patrol. Drug dogs need an additional 320 or so hours.
Right now Vader is working on tracking, apprehensions and building searches.
“He comes with me every day to work, so he gets used to the sounds and other people around,” Stubbs said. He is not yet patrol ready, so he stays in the car and enjoys the environmental exposure.
Stubbs wasn’t the only one up for the K-9 handler position, he said. He was given the position last September. “I was just lucky enough to come out at the top,” Stubbs said. Stubbs had volunteered for different training opportunities with other K-9s and handlers and often stepped in to be a decoy for the dogs.
“Steven has shown an interest in the K9 program and wanted to have a police canine before he was even a police officer. We are excited that he has the opportunity to be a part of a program that has such a positive impact in both the public and law enforcement communities,” said Sergeant Bill Andrew from the WPD.
He travelled to New York City to pick out Vader, who was purchased for around $7,500. Stubbs grew up with dogs and is fascinated by the ability to bond in a unique way. He was looking for a dog that would work for him and the department. At this point, what calms Vader down is his toy or the promise of his toy, of which Stubbs has a big supply of, just in case.
Vader responds to both English and Dutch commands. According to Stubbs, it doesn’t matter which language he uses, the association with the word and command are the same. “Reading your dog – body signals and relay back to them what you want them to do in a clear way,” he described.
In the three years with Windham, Stubbs has been on the bicycle patrol, MARC self-defense team, an instructor with the Criminal Justice Academy and a physical fitness instructor at the academy.
“You can’t ask for a better job. My best friend comes to work with me every day. It’s the best partner,” he said.
Stubbs does have another, older dog, named Bosco.
On May 16th, Vader will be at the Vacationland Dog Club to show off his skills. “He knows what he’s doing,” Stubbs said.
On September 27th, Vader will join K9 Grinko and Andrew at Summerfest.
The average working span for a dog is seven to nine years as long as the drive and willingness to want to work is still there.