At the Darien Library on Saturday, Feb. 15, about 100 adults and children watched, captivated, as a large black dog ran over to a man and placed its mouth firmly on the man’s arm — and wouldn’t let go.

The dog is Darien Police Department’s K9, Argo, who works with handler, Darien Police Officer Amanda Hinkley.

Hinkley was giving a demonstration of how Argo will apprehend someone, upon command.

The demonstration, which took about 30 minutes, followed the library’s Coffee with a Cop event.

K9 Argo

At the demonstration, which was free, Hinkley, along with Darien Police Officer Leslie Silva and her K9, Kenny, answered questions about their K9s.

The “bad guy,” or decoy, was played by K9 Officer Logan Pavia with the Stamford Police Department.

No matter how much Pavia tried to get Argo — a dingo — off him, Argo held firmly to his Pavia’s arm with his mouth.

Pavia was wearing a protective sleeve on his arm.

On several instances, Pavia even lifted his arm up in the air, which only served to lift Argo up in the air as well.

Still, Argo would not let go.

Finally, after several more minutes that seemed to last forever, Hinkley commanded Argo to release Pavia.

Hinkley said a decoy is a person who takes the bite for the handlers.

“That job is super important because it builds the dog up,” said Hinkley, who has worked with Argo for three years. “It builds their bite work up. It builds their drive. It’s a very important part of being a handler.”

Argo doesn’t bite with the intention to hurt.

“It’s just a bite to hold the suspect to prevent them from fleeing,” Hinkley said. “Our dogs are trained to just bite once and then hold right there until we come and take the person into custody.”

Argo has a word that only Hinkley and he knows, that is a commend for him to bite someone.

Additional jobs Argo performs include evidence recovery. “So if someone dropped a knife or a gun, he can find that for us,” Hinkley said.

Argo also does building searches. “So if someone runs away and hides in a big building, he’s able to sniff them out for us,” Hinkley said.

Hinkley’s commands to Argo are all in German.

“We don’t really want people knowing what we’re telling the dog to do,” she said.

In addition to the apprehension demonstration, Hinkley showed the audience other commands that Argo is trained to follow, such as heeling, staying, and getting back up.

Argo is trained with toys. During the demonstration, he worked for a toy in the shape of a heart.

At one point, the toy was put right in front of his face and he didn’t budge until he got the command by Hinkley to go to it.

Argo eats two pounds of raw food every day. His diet consists of raw eggs and chicken thighs.

Argo is on the regional SWAT (special weapons and tactics) team.

“It’s the first time they’ve ever had a dog on the team,” Hinkley said.

On their down time, Hinkley plays ball and goes hiking and swimming with Argo.

“We have fun on our days off,” she said.

K9 Kenny

Kenny, a yellow Labrador retriever, is a drug dog and community policing dog. He often makes visits to Girl Scout troops and birthday parties.

“You can use him to search cars, packages, rooms, [and] people,” added Silva, who has worked with Kenny for two years.

Unlike Argo, Kenny is trained with food, so he works in order to eat.

Silva performed a demonstration where she hid food and Kenny found it, by its smell.

If Kenny smells an odor that he’s trained to recognize, he changes his behavior, according to Silva.

“He lays down and points at it with his nose,” Silva said. “Sometimes, he will change the position of his body. His tail will move. His respiration will change.”

When Silva gives Kenny a verbal command, he knows that that means now he has to search.

K9s

Both Argo and Kenny live at home with their handlers, work the same days as them, and go wherever they go.

Sometimes, Hinkley and Silva get called to help other towns that don’t have police dogs.

The dogs are available for service to state police, as well as to surrounding towns.

“If they call for us, we’ll go,” Hinkley said. “It’s a mutual aid. We show up and help them out.”

Hinkley said one of the reasons she became a police officer is she wanted to be a canine handler.

“I grew up with dogs. I always loved dogs,” she said.

Both K-9s spend the majority of their time during their handlers’ shift sitting in the back of the police car.

“There is a big kennel for the dog. There is a lot of space,” Hinkley said. “It’s very comfortable for them, and temperature controlled. The windows will drop down if it gets too hot. The dog has water.”

K9s typically work for the police department for eight or nine years before they’re retired.

The dogs follow the department’s first ever K9, Zulu, who retired at age 9. Zulu was handled by Officer Nicholas Aranzullo, who now works in the detective division. Zulo worked about eight years.

sfox@darientimes.com