WARWICK, RI — About 31 third-graders visited the Warwick Fire Department and Warwick Police Department Wednesday, taking tours of the neighboring public safety headquarters, including a visit with personnel comprising one of the WPD’s two K-9 units, Ptlm. Paul Wells and his canine partner, Fox.
Wells spent about 20 minutes explaining the unique relationship he and Fox share, as the dog is simultaneously his partner, his pet and, in many respects, is considered a law enforcement tool. Wells explained Fox and all dogs in K-9 units are sent into harms way ahead of their human partners. Often, the situations police dogs lead the way on involved people who want to fight an arrest.
“He’s going to take some punishment from somebody,” Wells told the students.
Wells referenced the recent death of Yarmouth K-9 Officer Sean Gannon, who was shot and killed by Thomas Latanowich, 32, of Somerville while attempting to serve an arrest warrant in Barnstable, MA, April 12. The man also wounded Gannon’s police dog partner, Nero.
Usually, Wells said, it’s the dog that bears the worst of the violence.
“It’s tragic. It’d break my heart if someone ever hurt my dog like that,” Wells said.
Wells also told the students how dogs use their sense of smell to detect the hair, dandruff and skin that everyone leaves behind in an invisible to the eye cloud of particles he likened to the debris that emanates from the Peanuts character Pig Pen. Fox can often tell if someone is in the next room, he said, and also uses his sense of smell to track and discover illegal drugs.
Searching for the contraband is like a game to Fox, Wells said. He and Fox demonstrated as he used Fox to search the room for a hidden package, quickly tracking it to a wall-mounted cabinet. Fox and Wells also demonstrated the dog’s apprehension tactics, with the help of a fellow officer who donned a padded sleeve so Fox could show off how he bites and holds fleeing or fighting suspects.
The students were led on the visit by Lippitt teachers Judith Monzack and Kim Casacatenla, and escorted on the rest of the tour by Officer Alfred Mallucci, the Veterans Jr. High School resource officer, and Officer Jill Marshall, the school resource officer at Winman Jr. High School.
The trip was the children’s first field trip with the school.