K9 Baso joins Wilton police force

Sniffing out narcotics, locating missing people in the woods by their scent and taking down aggressive suspects are three of the main things the Wilton Police Department’s latest K-9 officer is being trained in.

Baso, a 14-month-old German Shepherd, is becoming acclimated to his life as a police dog and should be coming on regular duty in October, said Officer Eric Patenaude, who will be handling the new dog.

“We’ve been bringing him around to meet the public,” said Patenaude, who works the 3 to 11 shift. A couple of weeks ago, Patenaude brought Baso to meet the public at the Chamber of Commerce sidewalk sale in Wilton Center.

“People want to come up and pet him, but they have to remember this is a working dog,” Patenaude said. That means people shouldn’t put their hands out and try to touch or pet the police dog. “He gets plenty of praise and loving from me, when it’s appropriate.’

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Baso replaces Enzo, the department’s previous dog who was put on medical leave earlier his year. While he was with the department, Enzo helped find at least two missing people and was among the police dogs brought in to sniff lockers at Wilton High School last fall.

The department bought Baso and his training package from Grasso’s German Shepherds in Shelton, at a cost of more than $13,000 covered by donations.

There were other expenses too, like outfitting the K-9 vehicle with a heat detection system that automatically lowers the windows and turns on a fan when it gets too hot for the dog.

The department looks forward to the help a K-9 officer can give.

“Our priority is missing persons,” said Capt. John Lynch.

The new dog should be able to provide years of service.

“You never know how many years you’re going to get out of a dog,” Lynch said.

Baso is thin, adolescent-looking, and that’s the way he’s going to stay, said Patenaude, who has worked with dogs since his years in the U.S. Marine Corps., serving two tours in Afghanistan earlier this decade. He has been on the police force a couple of years and takes over for the former K-9 handler, Steve Rangel, who was promoted to sergeant.

“We’re going to keep him thin, and fast,” Patenaude said. “That should help with the hip issues German Shepherds have when they get older, too.”

At night, Baso goes home with Patenaude who has a female German Shepherd as a pet. They get along, Patenaude said, but Baso knows he is a working dog.

He sets his mind to the task of sniffing out a missing person or a bag of cocaine.

“He looks forward to that treat he knows he is going to get,” he said with a laugh.