Norwalk Police dog hangs up sniffer

A furry, four-legged officer retired from the Norwalk Police Department in July after three years of sniffing out bad guys.

A spinal disease put Pasa, a German shepherd that began serving the department in 2006, out of commission and forced him into early retirement, but his achievements did not go unnoticed by his handlers.

"We looked for a second opinion," said Sgt. Andre Velez, a spokesman for the Norwalk Police Department. "But it was confided to us that, if we were interested in a humane and happy outcome, Pasa would have to retire."

Pasa's accomplishments include catching suspects in the act of burglarizing a home and earning an award from the department for finding guns and narcotics in a vehicle during an arrest made by the Special Services Unit.

But Pasa's crowning achievement came on hot summer day in 2007, Velez said.

On June 8, 2007, police scrambled to find the missing woman who had left her room at STAR -- a center for developmentally disabled persons.

Officers exhaustively combed the surrounding area and they decided to bring in their secret weapon. Pasa, then 4 years old, had previously found a suicidal man and helped apprehend an attempted murder suspect. He looked forward to the new challenge.

Pasa tracked the woman's scent to a Westport Avenue hotel and found her in a ditch behind the hotel, covered in brush. The K-9 later received a Certificate of Merit for his efforts.

"The missing person would have probably been exposed to inclement weather," said Velez. "That was a time when the dog probably saved someone's life."

Pasa continued to take a bite out of crime until earlier this year, when the onset of the spinal disorder weakened the dog to the point where he was no longer able to perform as a service dog.

Though veterinarians diagnosed the disease early and the dog has since recovered, Velez said keeping Pasa on the force was not a humane option.

"With the intense training that these dogs go through on a regular basis, it would have resulted in a catastrophic spinal injury that would have put the dog's life in jeopardy," he said.

Velez said the K-9 Unit is down two dogs and, in a time of budgetary crisis, there has been no word about when the city will purchase a new dog.

However, Velez said the city has always appreciated the service of the K-9 Unit and he believes a new dog will join the force

"Chief (Harry) Rilling has always been supportive of the K-9 unit," he said. "I'm sure the chief has his eyes on increasing the unit because it's such a popular unit and such an effective unit."

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