The most popular new addition to the Saugerties Police force is here to fight domestic terrorism. Miky, a handsome 20-month-old German Shepherd trained in the Czech Republic to sniff out bombs, was obtained using a $50,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security. Along with his handler, Officer Jeremy Rushkowski, he’ll work at large events in Saugerties, as well as by request throughout Ulster and Greene counties. That’s the tradeoff; having to detach a town officer to work someplace else. When no events are happening, Miky will be on patrol, mainly sniffing for drugs like other K9 dogs.
Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra says any well-attended event can be a “target-rich environment” for terrorists, even small-town festivals. To those who would question the spending, which, though the money is federal is ultimately paid by our taxes, the chief asks why — given the availability of such grants — Saugerties shouldn’t receive some of what its taxpayers put in?
Officer Rushkowski says it was his idea to apply for the grant. He’d always wanted to be a K9 officer. He looked up to Sgt. Michael Craft, who’d handled the department’s dogs since 1996, and was a dog person himself. “It has to do with having a partner with you,” he said. “The bond.”
He’s only had Miky for about a week and there is much training ahead of them. Rushkowski takes the dog along with him on patrol so the two can get used to one another, but Miky won’t be on duty for months.
Rushkowksi says he’s taken a few pointers from Sgt. Craft, who told him to make sure Miky knows who’s the alpha in the pack. He says things have gone well with his wife (also a dog person) and two kids, ages two and eight months. Unlike some other police dogs, Miky has an excellent temperament and doesn’t bite, says Rushkowski.
Sinagra said any future costs would be covered for as long as DHS maintains the program. One cost the department doesn’t have to worry about is vet bills. The Saugerties Animal Hospital donates 100 percent of the cost for both Miky and Sgt. Craft’s dog, Sara.
Rushowksi has been a full-time officer since 2006. From 2007-12, he was the student resource officer for the school district.