Donations help Yarmouth police put K-9 back on the beat

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YARMOUTH — The newest member of the Yarmouth Police Department is only 7 months old.

He’s also covered in black and tan fur, loves to play fetch, and never says no to a bone or biscuit.

Matrix, a Belgian Malinois, is Yarmouth’s new police dog.

“He’s super friendly and hard working,” Officer Josh Robinson, Matrix’s handler, said. “He’s a very good pup.”

Matrix is Yarmouth’s first police dog since Sultan retired in 2012. Sultan, a German shepherd, was put down in February 2015 because of health issues related to old age. A couple dozen officers, firefighters and EMTs from Yarmouth and surrounding towns, as well as from the Maine State Police, came to honor Sultan when he was euthanized.

News outlets across the country ran stories when Sultan died, and the Police Department received donations from people who hoped the police canine program would be revived.

“Everybody loves dogs, and I think that was recognized with Sultan because people reached out from around the country and around the world,” Chief Michael Morrill said.

The Police Department received more than $18,000 in donations, including $5,000 from Yarmouth AMVETS. Morrill said individuals gave anywhere from $25 to $2,500, and the department is grateful for every donation.

The Town Council formally accepted the funds in February, and, so far, the money has been used to acquire Matrix. Donations will also be used to train Matrix and Robinson, and convert a police vehicle into one that is suitable for carrying a dog.

Matrix was born March 4 at North Edge K9 in Gorham. The organization breeds and sells dogs specifically to be used for law enforcement or personal protection.

Matrix joined the Police Department at the beginning of September. He lives with Robinson and his family, and is treated like “a normal family pet,” Robinson said.

Matrix and Robinson will begin a 14-week training program at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy next March. After completing the training program, Matrix will be certified in “obedience, agility, tracking individuals, building and article searches, criminal apprehension, and handler protection,” according to Morrill.

In August 2017, Matrix and Robinson will also complete a training course for drug detection.

Since Sultan’s retirement, Yarmouth officers have called neighboring departments that have dogs when they needed a police dog’s assistance. Morrill said the department will no longer have to rely on towns that are 10-20 minutes away for a police dog to arrive.

“The benefit is when there’s an immediate need, we can have a dog readily available,” he said.

Two officers in Yarmouth applied to be K-9 handlers when the opportunity became available. Morrill said Robinson was selected because of his 10-year-tenure with the department, and because of his strong interest.

“He made it clear in his interview process (10 years ago) that he was interested in doing it,” Morrill said. “And since the passing of Sultan, he has been doing a lot of research.”

Robinson said having a K-9 partner has always been a dream of his.

“I wanted to as long as I can remember,” he said. “I think it’s amazing what they can do and it’s the best tool an agency can have.”

Robinson said the department chose a Belgian Malinois instead of a German shepherd because they’re slightly smaller and more agile. He said he’s very pleased with Matrix and is looking forward to working with him.

Morrill said he thinks the community will be happy with the new addition, too.

“I think it’s a good time for us,” he said. “The community is very supportive and the Town Council is very supportive.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Yarmouth Police Department Officer Josh Robinson and his new K-9 partner, Matrix.

Matrix, a 7-month-old Belgian Malinois, is Yarmouth’s first police dog since Sultan, who was put down in February 2015.

Matrix and Officer Josh Robinson are bonding, and next March will start a 14-week training program.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.