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Canine police officer visits Ramsay Elementary

| Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Marilyn Forbes | For the Daily Courier
Gerro got his favorite squeaky ball toy after successfully finding the hidden narcotics that were affixed to the bottom of a folding chair.

Officer George Grippo of the Mt. Pleasant Police Department will tell you that he has the best partner out there — and Gerro his certified police canine will wag his tail in agreement.

As a way to bring awareness to Red Ribbon Week and its message of drug prevention and awareness, Grippo and Gerro recently visited local schools and did demonstrations to groups, showing youths how the pair work together to battle the drug problem in the area.

“We have been involved in more then 80 arrests,” Grippo told a group of elementary school children at Ramsay Elementary School.

Over the past few weeks, Grippo and Gerro have been to the Norvelt and Donegal elementary schools, Yough Middle School, Mt. Pleasant Area High School and did a demonstration for the Pleasant Manor youth group.

“They like to see the dog and the demonstrations,” Grippo said. “Plus it's a good opportunity for them to see what a canine officer can do and how they assist the police department.”

Grippo presented about a half-hour program to the students, explaining what Gerro does, how they do it and why it is important for them to continue taking classes on a regular basis.

“We go to school every week just like you do, and we have to work hard just like you do,” Grippo told the students.

Ramsay school counselor Cassie Moorhead said having Grippo and Gerro come to the school is a great educational event.

“I think this is a great way to educate the students about his dog Gerro and what they do as a team in the community,” Moorhead said. “Students get a chance to ask questions that can then further help them to understand what it is that they do.”

Grippo explained how Gerro detects narcotics and how he reacts when he discovers them, but the one thing that he stressed is that he is the only one that can ever know the command words that are used.

“If you know the words then he will do what you say,” Grippo said. “He doesn't care who says it, he obeys his commands.”

Grippo explained how Gerro uses air current for scent detection and how having a dog commands respect when dealing with crowd situations.

“Four or five police officers may have a difficult time controlling a large group of people but with one dog, the whole crowd listens,” Grippo said.

Grippo told the students Gerro knows when it's time to work and when it's time to play.

“All these police dogs are friendly,” Grippo said. “But they can be very mean if they are told to be. It's just like a light switch, they can change that quickly if they are told to.”

Grippo is invited to the schools in the Mt. Pleasant Area School District at least once a year to show what they do in the community and also to answer any questions students may have on what is needed to be a good canine team.

“I couldn't ask for a better partner,” Grippo said. “We're good team.”

Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer.

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