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K9 Aria – Potomac State College, West Virgina

1st Handler – Officer Rob Andrews
2nd Handler – Sgt. Mike Cannon


After eight years of service to Potomac State College, Police Department K-9 Aria passed away. Since 2009, Aria had worked with two handlers: Officer Rob Andrews and Sgt. Mike Cannon. She was a very friendly dog that attracted a lot of positive attention to the department. In an interview with the Mineral Daily News-Tribune, Cannon said Aria interacted very well with the public and that having a K-9 helped to humanize the police. In fact, he said they couldn’t walk through campus without someone stopping them. “She was one of the sweetest dogs I’ve met,” said Kaitie Brown, a second-year PSC student. “A lot of students really adored Aria and felt more protected with her on campus.” Brown elaborated how having a K-9 on campus made her and other students feel. Brown recalled rushing past Aria and her handler more often than not in the mornings on her way to class and thinking about how approachable and gifted Aria was. Brown would have stopped to greet her each morning had she not feared running late. University Police Chief Brian Kerling said, “Having Aria was a great benefit to our department, the campus community and the surrounding community. She was a good ice breaker when talking to people.” Despite Aria’s friendly demeanor, she was a trained K-9 officer who specialized in the detection of a variety of illegal drugs including marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and ecstasy. Cannon believed Aria’s talents were one of the main reasons the PSC Police had been so successful in sniffing out illegal drug use on campus and in the community. Aria’s abilities were used over 300 times, leading to more than 240 filed charges. Those charges don’t extend just to the PSC campus though. The PSC Police would often volunteer Aria in response to other agencies requesting K-9 assistance, including the Keyser Police Department. PSC is raising funds to purchase a new K-9 and the subsequent training for the dog and its handler. The benefit to campus security outweighs the substantial cost. “A K-9 is a very valuable member of a department,” Kerling said.

Submitted By Jim Cortina

James A. Cortina has been involved with police dogs since 1972 and currently on the Board of Directors for the Connecticut Police Work Dog Association Inc. Jim has been appointed as Treasurer since its inception in 1991. Jim is one of the charter members of the C.P.W.D.A. organization. Since 1975 he has been a certified professional dog trainer and received his Master Trainer Certification in 1985. During his career he has provided armed K-9 strike crowd control for security agencies in Connecticut and out of state security companies. In conjunction with other members of the Connecticut Police Work Dog Association Inc. Board of Directors, he helped to draft Connecticut Statute 53-247(e) "Intentional Injury or Killing of Police K-9" which was passed by the Senate in 1993 and also assisted in implementing the prestigious Daniel Wasson Memorial K-9 Award in 1992. In 1993 he helped coordinate the North American Police Work Dog Association Nationals in New London, Connecticut. He was appointed Training Director for the New London County Work Dog Association from 1985-1987. He performed decoy work for Connecticut Police Work Dog Association Inc. in police K-9 demonstrations, trained several local police department canines, and coordinated training workshops for out-of-state police departments. He participated in the United States Police K-9 Association Trials in Croton on Hudson, New York in 1985 as a decoy. He is an avid photographer and received photography awards in 1989, 1990, and 1991 and currently takes photographs for the Connecticut Police Work Dog Association Inc.