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Students aid newest members of Springfield’s K-9 unit

Date: 9/13/2013

By Chris Maza

SPRINGFIELD – Two Sabis International Charter School students have the honor of saying the helped name two of the city of Springfield’s newest K-9s.

The fifth grade classes at the school located in Sixteen Acres were asked to submit essays in which they made suggestions for the names of officers Anthony Tyler and Dan McKay’s newly acquired police dogs with an explanation as to why they picked that name.

At a gathering at the school on Sept. 6 attended by the entire fifth grade, who did not know the winners in advance, it was announced that McKay’s dog would be named “Chase,” thanks to the suggestion by Alexis Johnson and Tyler’s dog would be named “Ares,” per the suggestion of Ailani Brace.

It was an excitement-filled atmosphere with the students buzzing at the sight of the new police dogs, which were in attendance, as well as the chance to be captured by the television media and the dogs, not yet trained, responding with barks and an inability to stay still with all the commotion.

Before announcing the name he chose, Tyler, whose mother, Debra Gomes, is a fifth-grade math and science teacher at the school, said he was very impressed with all of the submissions and that judging by the writing, the future was in very good hands.

“Incredible writing. Absolutely incredible,” Tyler told the media after the event. “Fifth-grade writing levels here are amazing. I never thought I’d see the kind of names that we did. I thought it would be very typical dog names like ‘Spike’ [or] ‘Rex,’ but some of the names the kids chose were Greek gods, heroic figures, public speakers, presidents, and I was really impressed with the amount of research they put into it. It was a step above anything I could have hoped for.”

Brace told Reminder Publications the name Ares, referring to the god of war in ancient Greek mythology, seemed like a good name for a police dog because it sounded like a “strong” name.

Tyler said when reviewing the suggestions, he found three that he liked, but his dog has a hyper personality and “a real power to him” that made Ares a perfect fit.

Johnson said she was “very happy” that McCay’s dog would bear the name she suggested.

“You know how dogs sometimes have to chase the criminals? That’s why I figured his name should be Chase,” she said.

McKay said the quality of Johnson’s writing and the thorough manner in which she supported her choice “put it that much higher than everybody else.”

Chase and Ares will now go through an extensive 10-week training program to make them ready for duty with training ranging from bite work to tracking to article searches. Before any advanced training, however, the dogs must learn obedience.

“It’s a rigorous process. We have to do a lot of work with the dogs with basic obedience and then advanced obedience so they can stay calm in tense situations. As you can see here, once one dog gets amped up, they all get amped up,” Tyler said. “It’s rigorous for the dogs as well as for the handlers. We do a lot of physical exercises with the dogs, so it’s important for the handlers as well as the dogs to stay in good health and good shape.”

McKay said an additional challenge for him and his dog will be learning to communicate.

“Not only do [the dogs] not speak our language, my dog came from Slovakia three weeks ago, so I have to learn to speak to the dog in foreign language and try to have it understand what I’m trying to have it do,” he said.

Sgt. John Delaney explained that the McKay and Tyler would be assigned to Sabis and in that way, the dogs would “grow up” with the students who helped name them.