Waffle, state police troop’s new rookie, will work for food
SOUTHBURY — The Connecticut State Police force has a new member, and her name is Waffle.
The 2-year-old yellow lab became Troop A’s newest member about three weeks ago after washing out of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, said Lt. Christopher Bartolotta.
Guiding Eyes is a New York-based nonprofit that trains and provides dogs for people who are blind and visually impaired. The organization notifies Connecticut State Police when a dog isn’t fit for guiding, but may do well in police work.
“Certain dog personalities are great for Guiding Eyes, and some are great for other aspects,” Bartolotta said.
Waffle has a high propensity to be driven by food, which means she can be trained “very quickly and very easily,” he said — making for an “excellent” narcotics K-9.
Waffle is in week three of a five-week initial imprint training. After that, she will train for six weeks with her handler, Trooper Mike Houle.
“The handler will train her on a regular, daily basis — both on duty and off duty — and that’s how the dog gets fed,” Bartolotta said.
Houle and Waffle will go through a routine each day to reinforce and imprint everything Waffle learns during the 11 weeks of training.
“When they wake up in the morning, they will go through a routine where he sets up some blind devices so the dog can go try to find the narcotics. When the dog finds the narcotics, the dog is rewarded with food,” Bartolotta said.
“When they’re on duty and it’s a slow time, they will take off to either the barracks or go somewhere safe and do the same type of training so that the dog is always being fed at different times, but remembers that she has to find something if she wants to eat.”
That way, when it’s time to work, he said, the dog remembers that it has to find something.
With the addition of Waffle, Troop A now has two narcotics dogs.
“We have two what we would call ‘solely-designated’ — meaning all they do is narcotics — and then we have one crosstrained dog that does narcotics and couple of other things as well,” Bartolotta said.
Troop A welcomed Waffle to the force with the help of students at Henry Abbott Technical High School in Danbury, who sold $10 T-shirts to support the troopers’ purchase of the dog
Bartolotta said the cost to purchase Waffle was “a couple thousand dollars.”
“What this school did was beyond our comprehension,” he said. “With the concerns in our state about opioids and other issues, the students came up with this plan to raise money for a narcotics K-9 to reduce access to some of these harmful drugs.”
Students sold T-shirts to school faculty and staff members, as well as family members and friends — and they’re still raising, Bartolotta said.
“They’re saying they want to buy another dog,” Bartolotta said. “We’re very humbled by their efforts and what they’ve done.”
Trooper Mike Houle and narcotics K-9 trainee Waffle at Henry Abbott Technical High School in Danbury.
Two-year-old Waffle is the newest member of Troop A. Henry Abbott Technical High School students sold T-shirts to help raise money to purchase her for Troop A.