Brando, a York Area Regional Police K-9 officer, is nearing retirement so Officer Michael Sampere and the department are raising money to purchase a new
Brando, a York Area Regional Police K-9 officer, is nearing retirement so Officer Michael Sampere and the department are raising money to purchase a new dog. The new K-9 officer will cost $13,000. Brando will become a family pet for Sampere once the new K-9 is purchased and trained. (John A. Pavoncello photo)

With the impending retirement of one of the York Area Regional Police Department's most recognizable officers, the department is raising money for his replacement.

Brando, who joined the force at a mere 1-year-old, is the department's German shepherd police dog and is slated to retire at the ripe old age of 8 later this year.

"The thought of no longer having Brando on duty is one that I am not looking forward to," Chief Tom Gross wrote in an email. "He is an asset, and I have seen the results of him finding drugs, catching criminals, and making countless children smile."

Since joining the department, the K-9 has worked and lived with his partner and handler, officer Michael Sampere.

Trained: Sampere is in the midst of raising money to purchase a dog that will replace Brando.

All told, it costs $13,000 for a dog. That includes initial training for the dog and Sampere. Additional costs,

such as food and veterinary bills, mount monthly.

Brando and Sampere also undergo monthly training.

Like Brando, the new police dog will be imported from Europe and trained to respond to commands in a foreign language. Brando receives his commands in Hungarian since he was born in Hungary.

But Sampere said having a police dog is well worth the price.

Brando is trained to sniff out drugs, track criminals and find people who are lost, and has convinced a number of criminals to surrender to officers, Sampere said.

"A lot of people have given up because of the mere fact of him showing up," he said.

The new K-9 will be trained in the same manner, and Sampere will be that dog's partner and handler.

Helping out: The dog is also a hit with children when Sampere takes him to schools and other functions were they put on demonstrations.

"He's very social. The kids love him," Sampere said of Brando.

Brando and Sampere work patrol beats and assist surrounding police departments when called upon.

"Mike Sampere and Brando are a team that has worked well together as evidenced by the many surrounding agencies who ask for their help and compliment their work," Gross said.

But that work takes a toll on a dog's body. Just the routine of jumping in and out of the back of the specially built police car wears on the dog's joints.

Home life: When not on duty, Brando lives with Sampere and his family. The dog is always alert and has on at least one occasion found drugs while not on duty, Sampere said.

It's police work that Brando appears to really enjoy, Sampere said.

"When I grab certain things to go to work, he'll nearly knock me over to get to the door," Sampere said.

On a few occasions when Sampere went to work without his partner, Brando whimpered in disappointment.

Sampere said it will be tough working with a new dog but added Brando has earned his retirement as a family pet.

"He will spend the rest of his days with me," Sampere said.

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Fundraiser

Patton Veterinary Hospital is hosting a March fundraiser with proceeds going toward the purchase of a new York Area Regional Police Department police dog.

The event includes dinner, dancing and a silent basket auction. It will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, March 16, at the Red Lion Elks Lodge, 323 W. Broadway.

Tickets are $35 each. Order forms can be picked up at Patton Veterinary Hospital.

The hospital is also collecting donations for the new dog. Donations can be dropped off at the hospital or mailed to Patton Veterinary Hospital, 425 E. Broadway, Red Lion, Pa 17356.

-- Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.