NORTH HUNTINGDON TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — When a police officer and his K-9 partner work together, they develop an extremely close relationship.

One police officer in Westmoreland County knows that all too well.

“He is a sworn officer,” Officer Bill Sombo, of the North Huntingdon Police Department, says of his canine partner. “This is a partner, this is an animal that on a day-to-day basis is, without hesitation, ready to lay its life down.”

That is exactly what Rocco, an 8-year-old German Shepherd police dog, was doing when he was stabbed Tuesday night in Lawrenceville; he was being a cop.

“One of the things we discuss with the handlers when we are training is that this dog is to go first, and in this situation, that’s exactly what happened,” said Officer Sombo.

Officer Sombo is a handler, a master trainer and a 30-year veteran of the North Huntingdon Police force. Colt is gis fourth K-9 partner.

“When we select these dogs, we are looking for the genetic traits that are extremely high,” says Officer Sombo. “One of them is the activity drive, the prey drive, the hunt drive, the fight drive, courage. There is just so many things; it’s just not taking a normal dog off the street.”

Officer Sombo’s agency is strategic law enforcement K-9 training. His course is 12 weeks – five days a week, eight hours a day.

At the end of the training, Officer Sombo expects the dog to be ready for duty, like Colt.

“As soon as I start walking down the steps and I start picking up the patrol vest that he wears, he immediately stands at the door and spins. He is so excited to go to work,” Officer Sombo says.

Colt also wears another kind of vest if the situation calls for it.

“This is a stab-resistant and bulletproof vest, and it does protect the tail and front of chest and shoulder,” Officer Sombo said.

More Reports on K-9 Officer Rocco
More Reports by Brenda Waters

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