PLYMOUTH, Mich. (WXYZ) — A three-year-old Labrador Retriever named Echo is making the rounds in Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, getting to know the students and staff as part of his training.
And Scott Hughesdon, a veteran in law enforcement, now has his youngest partner ever as Echo's handler.
Hughesdon said he can hear the children's excitement every time he walks into a classroom with his new friendly K-9 partner who loves being the center of attention.
"Their day just instantly gets better the minute we walk in," Hughesdon said.
After meeting Echo, six-year-old Juliette said, "He was really nice."
"Very cool," said Zain, 10, a fourth-grader at Isbister Elementary School in Plymouth.
Seeing the friendly lab greeting classmates took bright-eyed kindergartner Wyatt by surprise. "Strange because I've never had a dog in my school," Wyatt told 7 Action News.
But Echo's not just around for comfort and smiles. He plays a critical role in keeping students and staff safe.
"The dog is able to detect firearms, explosives, and ammunition," said Josh Meier, director of school safety and security for the district, who said that Echo plays a key role in their enhanced measures to protect children.
"We wanted to find solutions that were welcoming to our students, made them feel safe but didn't institutionalize our schools to where they felt fortified or like a prison," said Meier.
Ten-year-old David told 7 Action News that having Echo around made him feel comfortable. "I feel like I'm in a place of calm," said the fourth grader.
Echo received his name in honor of Canton Police Officer Ed Jagst who was off-duty when he was killed in a domestic situation.
Jagst served two terms (eight years) as a school resource officer and was loved and respected by so many.
"He just bonded with the kids. He had a passion about keeping our schools safe," Meier said. "So we felt it'd be a good honor, a good tribute to Ed if we named him Echo. Echo-52 was Ed's radio call sign that was retired after his death."
K-9 Echo now making his mark in the hearts of those he's protecting.
"He's like a dog you would feel safe around and comfortable around," said Madison, 9.
"It's really great," said Erin, 8. "It makes my day a little brighter."
Echo was trained at the K9 Academy Training Facility in Taylor where they train dogs for law enforcement agencies, hospitals, and school.
The Kiwanis Club of Colonial Plymouth donated $13,000 for Echo and his training.