Middle School students and staff enjoy visit from man's best friend

What better way to gain the attention of seventh and eighth grade students than by showing off a dog. 

A special one that, too.

In an effort to better connect and educate the students and the school community, the Somerset County Sheriff's Department and the Bridgewater Police Department paid a call to the Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School on Monday, October 17.

And they brought man’s best friend along with them.

 The Somerset County K-9 Unit’s dog, whose name is Caesar, walked onto center stage in the gym at the middle school with Officer Dan Soffer who is the county sheriff's K-9 handler, and Bridgewater Township police officer Ty Barnett, who is also a Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District School Resource Officer.

 Middle School Counselors Julia Meistrich and Alyssa DiGirolamo coordinated the event that gained the attention of students and faculty alike.

 They joined forces with Ted Lewis, the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District’s Assistant Security Coordinator, to come up with a plan to strengthen the relations between the police and the community during School Violence Prevention Week..

It worked.

 “We wanted to come up with a program for this week to get the kids to better know the police,” Ms. Meistrich explained.

Officer Soffer of the Somerset County Police Department showed off Caesar, a two-year old German Shepherd, in the gym. The dog would follow Officer Soffer’s. Instructions and commands to the delight–and attention–of the students and staff.

 “This was great to interact with the students and the kids enjoyed it,” Office Soffer said. “They learned how a K-9 is used for the police.”

The students asked questions that he answered, which included that Caesar lives at Office Soffer’s home and that he was trained for 16 weeks before he joined the county police department.

And also that the dog is named after a donor, Dr. Caesar DePaco, who was generous enough to help fund the police department in purchasing two dogs, including Caesar, and a K-9 vehicle.

 The students and staff also left the gym and were educated outside the building by Officer Barnett, who explained the many functions of his police cruiser.

“I love doing this. At the end of the day, this just bridges the gap between the community and the police,” Officer Barnett said. 

Middle School Principal Megan Corliss appreciated the demonstration that the police offered.

 “I want to thank the police departments for the time they took to educate our students,” Principal Corliss said.

 Ms. DiGirolamo felt that there was also another positive purpose of this visit.

 “This did not only help with the relations between our youth and the police but it was also an opportunity for kids to be educated on potential jobs in their future,” Ms. DiGirolamo explained.

She was impressed in how the audience gave their full attention.

 And the reason was simple.

“Who doesn’t love a dog,” she said.