Meet Waynesboro Police Department's new recruit: Bushta
The Waynesboro Police Department's new four-legged recruit just graduated from training.
Bushta, a Belgian/Dutch Malinois, attended Castle’s K-9 academy in Mechanicsburg and is now a certified dual purpose K-9, trained in narcotics detection, article and area search, patrol and building search, tracking, obedience as well as aggression control.
“He is very protective and always watching. He has my back,” said officer Aaron Huntington, who went through the five weeks of training with the dog. “When I have the car parked somewhere, I’ll look back, and he is looking around the area.”
Bushta was donated to the department by local resident James Bushta in August 2019.
“This gentleman is doing an incredible thing for us,” Waynesboro Police Chief Jim Sourbier said. “We could not get back into the K-9 business otherwise; it’s a very unique opportunity for us.”
According to Sourbier, Huntington was selected to handle the K-9 after a series of interviews within the department and Waynesboro Borough Council.
“I met with members of council and the chief, and they wanted to know a lot about me and if I could handle the additional responsibilities,” Huntington said. “They wanted to know my commitment to the dog and the training. This is something that I’ve always wanted to do to broaden my horizon.”
In addition to the initial five weeks of training, Bushta and Huntington must participate in 16 hours of hands-on-training monthly to maintain the K-9′s certification.
“I was with him all day, and together we went back and forth from the training center," Huntington said. "There were some very long days, but it was worth it. It was great bonding time for him and I to work together.”
Since Bushta was donated and not specifically selected as a potential police dog, Castle trainers put the pup through challenges to test him.
"As time went on, they saw his passion and drive and that he loved to search and track," Huntington said. "He kept up with the other K-9s, and in some areas, did better than many of the imports; they were very impressed with him.”
In preparation for Bushta to serve in the department, a WPD cruiser had to be retrofitted to include a cage, a heat monitoring system and an automatic door release mechanism.
“I have a remote on my belt so that if I am on a call and need him to assist me, I can just press the button and let him out of the vehicle," Huntington said. "It’s a lot to get ready for him to serve with me, and I’m learning as we go along. I’m still learning his needs and what he requires; he is 13 months old and still very much a puppy.”
When Huntington and Bushta are finished with their shift, they both return home in the retrofitted cruiser.
“He is a great dog to have when we are home. He loves to play with his tug toy, and he loves playing with his rubber ball. He will be a great dog to have around a family as well as a dog that can serve the community,” Huntington said. “I’m really exited to get to work with him, and I’m looking forward to the many years together in the police department.”
John Irwin is a Gannett reporter based in Waynesboro.