Gronk psyched to watch Gronk on Sunday

  • K-9 Gronk, right, chases a chew toy thrown by his handler, Athol Police Officer Craig Deveneau, left, at the Exchange Street station Friday. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • K-9 Gronk, right, with his handler, Athol Police Officer Craig Deveneau, left, at the Exchange Street station Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—

  • Athol Police K9 Gronk. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—

  • Athol Police K9 Gronk. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—

Recorder Staff
Friday, February 02, 2018

ATHOL — Come Sunday at 6:30 p.m. when the New England Patriots take the field in Super Bowl LII against the Philadelphia Eagles, K-9 Gronk will be watching from Athol, rooting for his favorite football team and namesake, Patriots tight end Robert “Gronk” Gronkowski.

“Everyone knows who Gronk is going to be barking for,” said Police Chief Russell T. Kleber, continuing, “he is very happy that (Gronkowski) is feeling better from his concussion, and is ready to play.”

K-9 Gronk, a 2-year-old German Shepherd from the Slovak Republic, came to the department last April through a $25,000 Stanton Foundation grant, and after graduating from Boston’s police dog academy has been patrolling locally with his handler, 22-year veteran Officer Craig Deveneau.

“They worked their tails off, they both did,” Kleber said about Boston’s rigorous 14-week training school, which he called “one of the best K-9 academies in the world.”

Last year, K-9 Gronk received a lot of attention from a few articles by local and state news organizations. “Rob Gronkowski even tweeted on his Twitter account,” Kleber said, referencing a May 20, 2017 post by Gronkowski that read “hey there Gronk! You so adorable,” with a video of Gronk the dog.

With a tan-and-black coat and proud posture, Gronk’s “a force multiplier,” making Deveneau “worth four or five officers,” Kleber said. “The dog is a deterrent, and keeps everyone safe.”

On duty, he’s well-trained and focused, currently certified in tracking, area searches, and criminal apprehension, and works shifts with Deveneau like any other officer, Kleber continued.

Over the past few months, Gronk has assisted with tracking, searched out evidence, and helped apprehend suspects, deterring bad situations before they happen.

But off-duty, Gronk’s an excitable young German Shepherd who enjoys chasing balls, treats, dog parks, and attention.

A good temperament

At the station on Friday, after returning from an all-day narcotics course in Boston, Gronk burst from Deveneau’s custom K-9 patrol vehicle and raced across the parking lot, chasing a yellow chew toy.

“The great thing about him is that I can have him interact with the public, but he knows his commands,” Deveneau said, wrestling the now slobbery toy from Gronk’s jaws. “Not all dogs are able to be with the public in the way we’ve been able to.”

Like Gronkowski the football player, K-9 Gronk is goofy and full of energy, and “he doesn’t sit still,” Deveneau continued, throwing the toy back across the pavement. “He’s always anxious to have his turn, and to do well.”

Since coming to the department, Gronk has been embraced by the community. Deveneau often walks with Gronk through downtown to meet people, and, recently, D’Ambrosio Eye Care held a fundraiser for Gronk, raising enough money to buy a $1,200 protective vest with more left over.

“We count on each other every day,” Deveneau said, noting their connection goes beyond work. Referring to a wireless key fob that allows Deveneau to open his cruiser’s door remotely, he said, “I can pop Gronk out to protect me, or to hang out.”

For those who’d like to support Gronk, bumper stickers can be purchased for $5 at the Police Department on Exchange Street.