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Limerick's Newest Officer Heads to Work

Township's new K9 officer and his partner started patrolling this week

You might be seeing a new face on the Limerick police force beginning this week. He's got black hair, brown eyes, four legs and a tail.

His name is Flynn, and he is a two-year-old German Shepherd who recently graduated from K9 training in Philadelphia with his partner, Officer Kevin McGuigan.

Limerick Township last had a K9 officer in 2009, when Sergeant Robert Matalavage’s K9 partner, Jago, retired.

Matalavage was the handler for two K9 partners, beginning with Bandit in 1995 and then Jago in 1999. The department has been without a K9 officer since Jago’s retirement.

McGuigan said he has been training with Flynn for the last six months. He was one of several officers from all over the region who started training together.

"October [2011] was when we started," McGuigan said. "We [the members of the training class] went down to the Philly K9 unit and chose the dog we wanted to handle, and got right into it."

The process started months before McGuigan met Flynn. 

McGuigan has always been interested in being a K9 officer throughout his 13 years in law enforcement, the last six of those in Limerick.

Opportunities to become a K9 handler are entirely dependent on the needs of a department and the ability to place a K9 officer on the force.

Flynn's 'job' became available last year, when Police Chief Bill Albany received a grant from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Regional Counterterrorism Task Force. The grant, along with private donations, made the funding available to purchase Flynn from the Czech Republic and have him trained.

McGuigan said he put in for the K9 position and was selected by Chief Albany last year. An officer has to meet a very high standard in order to be considered for a K9 job.

Becoming a police dog’s partner affects every part of a police officer’s life. A police dog has to fit seamlessly into a police officer’s family, so McGuigan’s wife and children, as well as his other two dogs, were introduced to Flynn early on in training.

“Now, the three dogs, they all lay on the floor together and chew on their toys,” McGuigan said.

Flynn also loves playing with McGuigan’s young daughter.

After the first several months of basic patrol and obedience training, McGuigan and Flynn spent the last ten weeks of class working on explosives detection. The SEPA Counterterrorism Task Force grant stipulated that Flynn had to be trained as an explosives-detection dog.

"The dogs learn 27 different scents," McGuigan said.

McGuigan said Philadelphia's K9 training unit is widely recognized as one of the top schools on the East Coast. The class trained at several locations, , over the last six months. McGuigan and Flynn work as patrol officers and can be called out for tracking or explosives work at any time.

McGuigan is very pleased with Flynn's abilities and his personality.

"He can be playful, but he knows when we come to work we have a job to do," McGuigan said. "I just say 'Wanna go to work?' and he's raring to go."

McGuigan is happy to be back on duty in Limerick Township now that training is done and looks forward to working with Flynn in the community as a whole.

"I can't wait to see what we're going to do next," McGuigan said. 

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