SEEKONK, Mass. (WPRI) — A Seekonk police K9 and his handler are credited with helping to find a suicidal teen earlier this week.
Sgt. Steve Fundakowski says Rehoboth police contacted Seekonk police Monday night to request the aid of a K9 unit.
Rehoboth police initially responded to a report of a juvenile in crisis who had made distressing statements, according to Fundakowski, but the girl had fled by the time officers arrived at the home.
Police were concerned the girl may harm herself, and Fundakowski said he and his partner, K9 Zuzo, “jumped at the opportunity” to help.
Upon arrival, the 4-year-old German Shepherd was given the girl’s sweatshirt, which he bit and sniffed to pick up her scent.
Police learned the girl had run into the woods. Fundakowski said he and Zuzo were first greeted by goats, but after the brief distraction, Zuzo got his command.
“He knows what to do. He picked up a scent immediately,” Fundakowski recalled. “We tracked for about 75, 100 yards to a rock wall and a wood line, and at that point, he starts ‘air scenting.’ He lifts his head up into the air and starts going a little frantic. To me, he’s telling me that the person’s close by.”
Fundakowski said shortly after that, Zuzo found the girl hiding under a tree, “not saying a word.” Rehoboth police took over from there and the teen was taken to the hospital for evaluation, according to Fundakowski.
“We were able to get her the help that she needed. So all in all, it was a good find,” he said.
As Seekonk police noted in a Facebook post on Thursday, the incident was “another win” for Zuzo.
Fundakowski said his partner has had “numerous finds” in his short career which include drugs, people in crisis and suspects, some of whom were considered dangerous. He then brought up a serious but slightly humorous encounter with an armed robbery suspect several weeks ago.
“We’re running after him, threatening to send the dog,” Fundakowski recalled. “I don’t think he believed me, because he looked back and as soon as he looked back, he saw the dog… he just dropped and gave up.”
Seekonk currently has two K9 officers.
“Both our dogs are very well trained,” Fundakowski said. “We put a lot of time and training into them, and it definitely shows on the street. The other night was a prime example of that.”
Zuzo has been on the force since Sept. 2016; he was born in the Czech Republic and shipped to the United States to become a K9 officer. He was recruited by Boston Police Department’s head K9 trainer and paired with Fundakowski.
Zuzo attended a 16-week patrol academy followed by six weeks of narcotics training. According to Fundakowski, a majority of the funding needed for K9 officers is collected privately through fundraisers and other initiatives.
“For him, it’s all play,” Fundwakoswki added. “After the other night, as excited as he was and everything, I gave him his ball and that was the world. He did all that work just for his ball.”
Fundakowski has been an officer for 11 years, spending the last six with Seekonk police.
“Ever since I started, I always knew this was my goal and this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a K9 handler,” he said. “To me, this is the dream job. Best job in the department.”