Detective Mark Phelps and Riggs, of the Chester Police Department, appear in a photo at Chester-Andover Elementary School. PROVIDED PHOTO
CHESTER — The Chester Police Department bade farewell to their one and only police dog last week.
Detective Mark Phelps said that Riggs, the department’s faithful German shepherd, died peacefully July 22. He was 13 years old.
Riggs was the town’s first K-9 unit and lived a long life and retired one year before he died. Phelps, who was also Riggs’ handler, said the dog was named after Los Angeles Police Department narcotics officer Martin Riggs played by actor Mel Gibson in the series of “Lethal Weapon” movies.
According to Phelps, Riggs was brought on specifically for narcotics detection and to visit children at local schools. Phelps trained with Riggs at the Vermont Police Academy, saying he performed well in the field and always enjoyed visiting students.
“He was really motivated for doing drug searches. But when you took him into a classroom, you could let him go and he’d walk around with kids they would pet and play with him,” Phelps said.
Riggs joined the Chester Police Department in 2002.
Ludlow police used Riggs for searching suspicious vehicles and local buildings. Ludlow Police Chief Jeffrey Billings said Riggs was useful in all situations and played a role in preventing crime in Ludlow.
“He could get into spots where we couldn’t and find the stuff we needed. I don’t think you could put a dollar amount on (Riggs’) value,” Billings said.
One of Riggs’ major accomplishments was searching a suspicious vehicle years ago in Proctorsville. According to Phelps, Riggs detected $55,000 in cash, large amounts of cocaine and illicit drugs and it was a major bust in the Black River Valley.
Chester police do not intend to replace Riggs, Phelps said. Vermont State Police in Rockingham and the state Department of Motor Vehicles now have K-9 units, while Springfield and Brattleboro Police Departments have new police dogs in training.
Phelps said Riggs was cremated and his family will spread some of his ashes in their backyard where they often went snowshoeing.
“We’ll spread some of them up there and we’ll keep some of them as well,” Phelps said.
“A lot of patrol dogs are a little more aggressive but we specifically wanted a social dog because it’s a small community and we wanted him to engage with the community. He was laid back and mellow. But when it was time to go to work, Riggs flipped on the switch and he was ready.”
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