In 2020 Sergant Matthew Paquette offered an interesting proposal: initiating a K9 Police Program at White River Junction VA Healthcare System.
While attending the Leadership, Effectiveness, Accountability and Development (LEAD) program, Sergeant Paquette was inspired to bring this idea forward.
“Once the word got out that we were interested in starting this program at the White River Junction VA,” Paquette explains. “the K9 program received enough donations in less than a month.”
Everything from care for the life of Ripp was donatated to the donation of the K9 vehicle, food, training and so much more.
Custom Canine Unlimited was the only vendor at that time to have a dog that met VA standards and qualifications. In November of 2020 K9 Ripp and Paquette met. Paquette drove to Gainsville, Georgia where he began training at Custom Canine Unlimited with his new partner and, let’s face it, best friend!
Ripp, a black Labrador Retriever was just over a year old and already imprinted with scents. Paquette participated in a 6 week training program with Ripp where they learned each other’s ques and techniques.
“It’s a partnership that requires constant training and maintenance.” said Paquette. “He’s [Ripp] got the nose and I don’t know what he is smelling unless I watch his queues and body language. It’s my job to put him in productive places to find the scent.”
After Ripp and Paquette graduated from the 6 week program in Georgia, they returned to New England where they passed the American Association of Police K9 certification test. During this assessment Ripp must complete a quarter mile track within 40 minutes– Ripp successfully completed the track in 11 minutes. Another assessment was drug detection for each substance he is trained in– Ripp again successfully completed this assessment with ease.
In January 2021, Ripp reported for duty at the White River Junction VA Medical Center. In September 2021 a ceremony was held to welcome Ripp to the team as well as to recognize and thank the donors that made the K9 Police Program possible:
- Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2571,
- Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc.,
- Wendell Veterinary Clinic,
- West Lebanon Feed and Supply,
- SAVES Small Animal Veterinary Emergency & Specialty,
- Sig Sauer,
- Bureau of Indian Affairs,
- Vested Interest in K9s, Inc.
VA Police K9s are not trained with aggressive tactics, rather they are trained in tracking and drug detection. If a patient is lost, Ripp will be able to find them faster which increases patient safety. Ripp is a visual deterrent and force multiplier to the police department as well as a morale booster for patients and VA staff. If the local community is in need of assistance from a Police K9, Paquette and Ripp will be able to provide that support.
“Ripp gives me the best job! I have the best job and partner, hands down.” said Paquette.