The Westport Police Department’s most recent retiree has helped sniff out narcotics, catch burglars and find missing persons.
She has no idea what she’ll do with herself now. She can’t play golf, read or travel.
Lola is a police dog.
She joined the force 11 years ago. A Fairfield family had bought the German shepherd as a pet, but soon realized she was more suited to work. They offered her to the Westport cops, who found her a far better police dog than the one they had.
“She wasn’t a pet. She was very focused,” says Fotios Koskinas, her first handler. (Current police chief Dale Call was also a handler.)
“She’s very achievement-oriented and self-motivated. She loves to accomplish things.”
Among Lola’s many tasks: narcotics detection, tracking criminals and missing persons, evidence recovery, building searches, even protecting officers. (“She’s trained to bite,” notes her most recent handler, Officer Marc Heinmiller.)
Once, she sniffed out 4.7 pounds of marijuana at a motor vehicle stop. She also located a potential suicide victim who had jumped into Fairfield’s Lake Mohegan.
Sometimes, her mere presence was enough to apprehend a perp. “I’ve had drugs handed over to me, and people surrender, just based on her barking,” Heinmiller says. “One guy came running out of the woods as soon as he heard her.”
For nearly 5 years, Lola went home every night with Koskinas. When he was promoted, Heinmiller spent 3 months getting certified as a handler, then took over.
“She’s definitely a unique dog,” he says. “She knows the difference between criminals and kids — she was always around them with the DARE program — and the difference between work time and home time. She’d protect the squad car and me, but at home we’d play fetch like any other dog.”
With Lola’s retirement, the big challenge now is finding a German shepherd “with the same talent and drive,” Koskinas says. “She’ll be very hard to replace.”
Lola has been retired for just over a week. When Heinmiller heads off to work, she cries. “She’s living the good life,” he says. “But she’s not too happy about it.”
Hopefully, though, “she’ll enjoy being a lazy pet. She’s healthy enough.”
And she’s certainly earned her retirement pay: biscuits and bones.