Who Let the Dogs Out? Passaic County K-9 Unit Wows Children and Seniors

Passaic County K-9 Teo- will not let go of a suspect until he is commanded to by his handler. Credits: Steve Lenox
Trained K-9s will not move until commanded to by their handler. Credits: Steve Lenox
Freeholder Director Sandi Lazzara reads part of "Roscoe the K-9 Cop" to students Credits: Steve Lenox
Credits: Steve Lenox
The students went home with souvenir collector cards depicting the members of the K-9 unit Credits: Steve Lenox
K-9s are trained to in several languages included English, French, Spanish, and Dutch
The K-9s are are imported from Holland or the Czech Repbublic Credits: Steve Lenox
Credits: Steve Lenox

TOTOWA, NJ- With schoolchildren, senior citizens, and law enforcement all in one room any politician would have been thrilled to take part in Thursday’s cross generational event in Totowa that featured a reading of children’s book “Roscoe the K-9 Cop,” authored by Kristen Sondej, and several members of the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department’s K-9 unit.

While it was the well-trained dogs that stole the show, the moment wasn’t lost on Freeholder Director Sandi Lazzara who also attended and slipped very comfortably back into the the role she held for 25-years as a teacher.

Calling it “one of the best days ever,” Lazzara praised the K-9 unit’s dogs and handlers, reminded the senior citizens how much they were “loved and cherished,” and told all within earshot of the importance of doing everything possible to ensure a better future for the students.

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The children, first and second grade students from Paterson’s John P Holland Charter School, alternated between the activity rooms where senior citizens from throughout the county have the chance, according to the center’s executive director Sam Yodice, to participate in a number of activities as well as enjoy a nutritious meal daily, watching the well trained animals show off their incredible skills and then enjoying a reading of the book.

“Roscoe the K-9 Cop” is the story of the book’s namesake, who was the “partner” to Sondej’s husband Henry, a 25-year veteran of the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office. Roscoe, Sondej told the students, loved his “job,” and would get excited every time his handler got into uniform, knowing it was “time to go to work.”

Sheriff’s Officer Heyman introduced the dogs one by one to the children and seniors, as well as all of the staff and guests in attendance, allowing for a first hand look at their training which prepares them for several law enforcement roles including patrol work, and explosive and narcotics detection. After eight-10 months of training, as well as a “bonding period” with their handlers, the dogs are prepared to protect and serve on the streets, in the county jail, and in the courthouse.

For teacher Amaris Henry the day outside of the classroom was a special opportunity for her students to see firsthand that police officers are “friends” always on the ready to help, a sentiment shared by one of the officers who said that for the men and women in law enforcement it’s “always about the public.”

The lesson wasn’t lost on 7-year old Nicolas who said the demonstration was, especially when one of the K-9s showed how they’d apprehend an offender with the help of its powerful jaws, “cool, but a little scary.”

Not too scary though Nicolas, who hopes to be a police officer when he grows up, said because, “they only bite bad guys, not good guys.”

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