Oct 11, 2015

A Canine Crime-Fighter’s Star Turn

THE TOP DOG: Nikita joins his partner, Lt. Thomas Chabot, at the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office on Friday afternoon. Adopted from the Sterling THE TOP DOG: Nikita joins his partner, Lt. Thomas Chabot, at the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office on Friday afternoon. Adopted from the Sterling Animal Shelter, Nikita has been working as a drug-sniffing K9. He’ll be appearing in an upcoming episode of the PBS show “Shelter Me.”


WEST BOYLSTON — Every day, Nikita gets to work by checking the mail. He moves quickly, inspecting each letter for any unusual smells — ones that indicate the presence of drugs. And then he tells his partner, Lt. Thomas Chabot, which are suspect.


According to Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis, Nikita is one of the best in the state at sniffing out drugs.


It’s impressive, because Nikita, a Puerto Rican native, started his life homeless.


And also because he’s a dog.


But now he can add something else to his growing résumé: television star.


Nikita, adopted for free from Animal Shelter Inc. of Sterling, is featured in an episode of “Shelter Me: Partners for Life,” a PBS series hosted by Jon Hamm that depicts and celebrates shelter pets.


“They’re the real deal,” Evangelidis said of the show. “They brought a huge film crew out for three days and filmed our department and really followed Tom (Chabot) around 24/7.”


Kim Roy, Evangelidis’ director of external affairs, got a call about two months ago that PBS picked up the episode.
FOUR LEGS ON DUTY: Nikita, a dog adopted from the Sterling Animal Shelter, walks with his partner, Lt. Tom Chabot, of Ashburnham, at the Worcester County



FOUR LEGS ON DUTY: Nikita, a dog adopted from the Sterling Animal Shelter, walks with his partner, Lt. Tom Chabot, of Ashburnham, at the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office on Friday. Nikita will be appearing in an upcoming episode of the PBS show “Shelter Me.”


“We really feel honored and proud,” she said.


She said the episode focused on Chabot and Nikita checking the mail, visiting a community corrections center in Worcester, greeting kids at Sutton Memorial High School, and back to the animal shelter in Sterling.


“He made the rounds,” she said.


Evangelidis said it was clear during the Sept. 29 Hollywood premiere that Nikita was the star of the show.


And he seemed to know it, too. When the dog saw himself on-screen, he started barking, as if on-cue.

He’s also great for community relations, Evangelidis said. He’s smaller than what many people think of as a typical police dog — a German shepherd, for instance — and so he’s approachable, thereby making Chabot approachable.


“It starts a positive conversation,” Evangelidis said.


Nikita, a sato, Puerto Rican slang for a mixed-breed dog, is just as effective as any other police dog, Evangelidis and Chabot said.


“He’s trained how to work, and he knows he’s going to work” when the collar comes on, Chabot said.


As an example, Chabot said a person, if walking into a McDonald’s, would smell hamburgers, grease and fries. But Nikita would smell everything separately: the onions, the pickles, the meat, mustard, ketchup.
That’s how he detects the drugs, he said.


“He breaks it all down until he finds an odor that he gets rewarded from. It’s really repetition for him,” Chabot said, who added he gives Nikita food when he successfully finds drugs.


Evangelidis said having Nikita has been a big help with their “ongoing, vigilant battle” with people trying to smuggle drugs into correctional facilities. Also, since getting him, people have taken the hint: numbers of positive drug identifications have dropped.


“He does a lot for us,” he said.


And Chabot said he loves working with Nikita.


“In this line of work, there’s very few people who get to do this,” he said. “It’s just such a unique aspect of corrections law enforcement. I feel privileged for him to be the ambassador for this story.”


Added Chabot: “I’m honored to work with him. It’s something different every day for him.”


On Oct. 20, Worcester’s Hanover Theatre will host the local premiere of their episode of “Shelter Me,” something Evangelidis said he is excited about, because it portrays the people of Worcester County so positively.


“We were very lucky to get the Hanover Theatre,” he said.
The event– which starts with a cocktail hour at 6 p.m. before the screening at 7 p.m. — is an “open-donation event,” he said, “so you can donate anything you want.”


All proceeds benefit area animal shelters, he said.


As for Nikita, this will be his second big-time premiere. Has the stardom gone to his head? Chabot couldn’t say.


“We’ll see after this next premiere,” he said, laughing.


More information is available at


Oct 8, 2015

Star K-9 Nikita to Appear at Hanover for Regional Premiere of PBS Show

By Susan Spencer

Telegram & Gazette

October 7, 2015


Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis and Lt.


Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis and Lt. Thomas Chabot of Ashburnham are seen Wednesday with drug detection dog Nikita.

Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis and Lt. Drug detection dog Nikita is seen Wednesday at the Worcester County Sheriff's Office.

The life of Nikita, a 3-year-old mutt adopted from Sterling Animal Shelter, is a Cinderella story.

Rescued off the streets of Puerto Rico, the 26-pound terrier-Labrador mix found a home with the Worcester County Sheriff’s department, where he works as a passive-alert narcotic-detection dog.

This fall, he’s capping his canine fairy-tale dream with red carpet appearances for the national PBS series highlighting animal shelters, “Shelter Me: Partners for Life.”

Nikita, his human partner Lt. Thomas P. Chabot, Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis and Sterling Animal Shelter Executive Director Leigh Grady were among those invited to Beverly Hills’ Writers Guild Theater Sept. 29 for the worldwide debut of the episode featuring Nikita’s law enforcement success.

On Oct. 20, the red carpet will roll out again at the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts in Worcester for the regional premiere.

Film producer and director Steven Latham of Los Angeles oversaw filming two years ago on location at Sutton High School, the county Jail and House of Correction, the Worcester Community Correction Center and at the Plymouth County Sheriff’s department, where some 30 shelter dogs from law enforcement around the state have been trained for service.

“Nikita’s future was rewritten,” Mr. Latham said in an interview.

“They got a great dog that you don’t even think of as a K-9 … that’s turned into a powerhouse,” he said. “It’s changed the image of shelter animals.”

The series aims to shine a spotlight on the crisis in animal shelters, according to Mr. Latham. Six to eight million cats and dogs are entering shelters in the United States and half of them are euthanized.

But Nikita’s experience demonstrates that far from being “throw aways,” these dogs can excel in roles including law enforcement and as friendly family pets.

Sheriff Evangelidis has brought in another shelter dog, Jaxx, because of Nikita’s success.

“It’s so progressive and so smart,” Mr. Latham said about the sheriff’s shelter-dog program, “I wanted them to be the model for the country.”

“What I love about the show is it represents law enforcement in a positive light. It represents shelter dogs in a positive light,” Mr. Evangelidis said.

His department adopted Nikita when an older dog was retiring and his budget didn’t have the thousands of dollars usually required for a purebred German shepherd, Belgian Malinois or other typical K-9 unit.

Sterling Animal Shelter donated Nikita, a Lancaster business, D’Ambrosio Eye Care, raised more than $1,000 for a bulletproof vest, training was free at the Plymouth County Sheriff’s department, and Holden Veterinary Clinic provides free medical care.

“We believe this is the perfect dog,” Mr. Evangelidis said. “Shelter dogs can do everything you need as well as any other dog, if you give them the opportunity.”

Nikita’s small, wiry size, not your typical imposing police dog, also works to his advantage. He can get under car seats, under bunks and in tight corners that would be out of bounds to larger dogs.

Out in the community, Nikita draws people to him, when he’s not wearing his collar indicating he’s in working mode, rather than scaring them away.

“It worked out to be a perfect fit for what we need him for,” Lt. Chabot said.

Nikita’s work day is busy. He sniffs for narcotics, particularly prescription painkillers, in incoming mail, on inmates, on offenders in community rehabilitation programs and wherever he might be called throughout the county. When he detects drugs, he sits down and places his nose where he finds the scent.

Nikita is food-reward trained, in which Lt. Chabot hands him a morsel to reward him for making a find.

That system applies around the clock, even when Lt. Chabot takes Nikita home at night to his wife and daughter. The lieutenant hides a packet of pseudo-heroin or cocaine somewhere around the house for Nikita to find before he is fed.

“He works for his breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Lt. Chabot said.

Mr. Evangelidis said Nikita has also been a deterrent to smugglers. The incidence of drugs found on site has gone down significantly with Nikita around.

But even a hardworking dog like Nikita deserves a night out now and then.

In Beverly Hills, “He was living the life,” according to Lt. Chabot. Nikita hobnobbed with actor and series host Jon Hamm’s shelter companion, Ruby, who sat in the front row with Nikita’s entourage at the screening.

Mr. Evangelidis said, “After the show, everybody was around him, wanting their picture taken with (Lt.) Tom (Chabot) and the dog. He was a celebrity.”

Worcester will have a chance to bask in Nikita’s star power at the Hanover Theatre’s “Shelter Me” premiere Oct. 20. A pre-reception starts at 6 p.m. and the screening is at 7 p.m.

Tickets are available by donation and all proceeds will go to support shelter animals.

For tickets go to the Hanover Theatre’s website,, or contact

Oct 8, 2015


Oct 8, 2015

PBS Series Looks at K-9 Unit in Massachusetts that Use Shelter Dogs

The Associated Press

In this Oct. 24, 2013 photo from the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office shows service dog Nikita visiting a criminal justice class at Sutton Memorial High School in Sutton, Mass. Nikita, the mutt from a Massachusetts animal shelter who got a new life as a K-9 drug-detection dog, stars in an upcoming episode of a new PBS series called “Shelter Me: Partners for Life.” The Worcester County sheriff’s department in central Massachusetts turned to the shelter for help when there wasn’t enough money in the budget to replace its retiring tracking dogs.

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