On Friday, the MTA Police welcomed eight new dogs into its Canine Unit in a moving graduation ceremony at Grand Central Terminal. The dogs, who are young German Shepherds or German Shepherd/Belgian Shepherd mixes, and their MTA police officer partners completed an intense 14-week training program to learn all about explosives detection, recognition and handling and will start to bark something when they smell something.
The MTA notes its K9 unit with 50 dogs is the largest of its kind in the country and adds, "Each canine forms a deep emotional bond with his or her police partner. Each pair not only works together for life, but they live together as well." MTA Police Officer Jason Wharton told us that his partner, Mikey, gets along great with his pit bull.
What made the ceremony moving is that all the dogs are named after members of law enforcement or the armed forces who have passed away. Many relatives of the late police officers and soldiers appeared at the ceremony and, afterwards, they met the dogs and MTA policer officers and their families, exchanging tears and hugs. Here are the dogs that graduated this year:
“Mikey” named in memory of MTA Police Officer Michael Aurisano. (His partner is MTA Police Officer Jason Wharton.)
“Stiehl” named in memory of MTA Police Lieutenant Kristin Stiehl Murray. (His partner is MTA Police Officer Joseph DeVito.)
“Glen” named In Memory of NYPD Police Officer Glen Pettit. (His partner is MTA Police Officer James Finn.)
“George” named in memory of NYPD Police Officer George Wong. (His partner is MTA Police Officer Allan Fong.)
“Buck” named in memory of Lance Corporal Gregory T. Buckley Jr. of the U.S. Marine Corp. USMC 3rdBattalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, Camp Lejeune North Carolina. (His partner is MTA Police Officer Joseph Terracciano.)
“Geo” named In Memory of Staff Sergeant Jorge M. Oliveira of the U.S. Army 2nd Battalion, 113th Infantry Regiment, 50th Brigade Combat Team. (His partner is MTA Police Officer Nelson Hernandez.)
“Jake” named in memory of Specialist Jacob Fletcher of the U.S. Army Company C, 2nd Battalion Airborne, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, Camp Ederle, Italy. (His partner is MTA Police Officer Richard Johnson.)
“Matty” named in memory of Specialist Matthew E. Baylis of the U.S. Army 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Division, Fort Carson. (His partner is MTA Police Officer Eric Heimbauer.)
Also, there was this adorable graduation video which partly made up for the fact that the dogs didn't have caps and gowns:
The MTA Police Chief Michael Coan said, "The MTA PD canines are one of our most valuable resources. Last year, our canine teams responded to over 24,000 calls for service and cleared 2,200 unattended packages while maintaining a watchful presence patrolling our terminals, stations and trains."