By Bill Lilley
Beacon Journal staff writer
Mathew Cody made it official at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday.
''Cruiser, Cruiser, come here,'' the fifth-grader at Windemere elementary called out.
The newest member of the Akron Police Department's K-9 Unit, a 3-month-old yellow Labrador retriever, dutifully entered the multipurpose room at the school. Within seconds, 60 fifth-graders swarmed around him.
Chief Gus Hall announced Mathew, 11, as the winner of the naming contest Wednesday afternoon. A special assembly at the school included all three fifth-grade classes and Principal Patricia Durkin.
Mathew received a framed picture that included a sketch of Cruiser, a picture of Cruiser and an Akron Police Department patch.
Hall said other top candidates for the dog's name were: Tracker, submitted by Ryan Jarvis; Boberticus, submitted by Gavin Gunn; Hunter, submitted by Dakota Hackney; and Chase, submitted by Kalie Williams.
''My twin brother Steven had come up with Bruiser,'' Mathew said. ''I just kinda put more of a police spin on it with Cruiser — like a cop car.''
Mathew said he was surprised he won and excited to meet Cruiser.
Detective Chris Carney will handle Cruiser, who was born Jan. 13 at Kerrybrook Kennels in Chardon. He was one of 11 in the litter.
''We had the pick of the litter,'' said Sgt. Dale Dorn, who is in charge of the K-9 Unit. ''We got it down to three puppies who were all outstanding, but it was his social attributes that got us to pick him.''
Dorn said that the Akron Police Department paid $1,500 for Cruiser. Police personnel will conduct the dog's training.
''We keep the cost low because we do everything in-house,'' Dorn said.
Carney said Cruiser is learning some basics now and his full training ''will take about six months.''
Cruiser then will become the Akron Police Department's dedicated drug dog. The other five dogs already working in the K-9 Unit are a combination of ''drug and bad-guy dogs,'' Carney said.
''He will be in schools,'' Carney said. ''He will do locker and school searches.''
The career expectancy of a member of the city's K-9 Unit is about nine years. The department will have six dogs in its unit after Max retires Thursday to the home of his handler, Detective Dave Farrell.
Dorn said Windemere was chosen for the contest because Cruiser lives in the school's east-side neighborhood. The last Akron police dog that schoolchildren named was Care Bear in 1992.
''We thought this was a great time to start doing this again because we have officers in the schools,'' said Dorn, who has been in the K-9 Unit 14 years and is a state-certified trainer.
''This is a great opportunity to involve the kids in an Akron Police Department project and for us to get to know them better at the same time.''
Dorn said it probably will be awhile before another contest is staged.
''We aren't anticipating adding another dog right now,'' Dorn said. ''Our whole unit is pretty healthy and in pretty good shape age-wise.''
Bill Lilley can be reached at 330-996-3811 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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