K9 Agar

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office recently welcomed two new canines to its Deputy Sheriff K9 Unit. K9 Agar and K9 Reis began their service with the Sheriff’s Office in the fall of 2020.

The Sheriff’s Office has a total of six canine teams; three for the police division and three for the correction division. The mission of these New York State certified canine teams is to support the daily operations of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office as well as other law enforcement agencies upon request.

The Sheriff’s Office Police Division canines are bred in Europe before being purchased by a third-party vendor and flown to the United States. The police dogs may receive some preliminary protection dog training in Europe but receive their police-specific training in the United States with our trainers.

K9 Reis

Both the dogs and their handlers spend 6 to 10 weeks in Columbus, Ohio for their basic certifications. K9 Agar and K9 Reis are certified in scent detection, narcotics detection, criminal apprehension, and handler protection. The canine teams are ready to serve the people of Suffolk County upon their return from Ohio and will conduct weekly in-service training for the length of their service to maintain New York State standards.

Sheriff’s Office canines have an average service length of about eight years. Considering that they are usually 1 to 2 years of age when entering service, they retire around the age of 9 or 10. Once canines are retired, they live out the remainder of their lives at home with their handlers and family.

K9 Agar is a 22-month-old sable colored German Shepherd from the Netherlands. K9 Agar is handled by Deputy Sheriff Kevin Tracy, a four-time experienced canine handler. Agar is a high drive, soft tempered dog with a sharp focus for his work.

K9 Reis is a 19-month-old dark brindle colored Dutch Shepherd also from the Netherlands. K9 Reis is handled by Deputy Sheriff Jason Korte, a second-time canine handler. Reis is named for Fallen Correction Officer Andrew P. Reister. Reis is a high drive, strong willed dog that exhibits a uniquely high level of courage.

Sheriff Errol Toulon was pleased to welcome these new canines. “The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office is proud to have these highly trained K9 Teams join our ranks. These dogs will work tirelessly to help fight crime, detect drugs, and keep Suffolk County safe,” he said in a statement.

For more information on Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, visit

Microplastic scooped from the surf off Kamilo Beach, Hawaii, where there seems to be more plastic than sand. Photo by Erica Cirino
Erica Cirino

Northport-East Northport Public Library presents a virtual program via Zoom titled Exploring the Pacific Ocean and Beyond: A Discussion about Plastic Pollution, Science, and Solutions on Tuesday, Jan. 12 at 7 p.m.

Science writer and artist Erica Cirino has explored many of the oceans, lands, and ecosystems of the Earth with a single purpose: find out the truths about plastic pollution and what it is doing to the planet, wildlife and people. Ms. Cirino will share her findings and testimony as a journalist, illustrated by amazing photography, during the presentation. Open to all.

Registration is underway at Code: NENA979

Questions? Call 631-261-6930.



This week’s shelter pet is Dean, a large statured cat that was found as a stray and brought to the Smithtown Animal Shelter. Estimated to be around 2 years young, he is loving and outgoing with people and other cats.  He is a complete love!

Dean does have chronic discharge from his eyes that needs to be wiped away regularly, but he enjoys the attention and never gives you a hard time about it. He is otherwise completely healthy! He comes neutered, up to date on his vaccines and microchipped.

If you are interested in meeting Dean, please call ahead to schedule an hour to properly interact with him in the Meet and Greet Room.

The Smithtown Animal & Adoption Shelter is located at 410 Middle Country Road, Smithtown. Shelter operating hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the weekend. For more information, please call 631-360-7575 or visit



This week’s shelter pet is Mia, a loving and energetic two year-old Pit/Lab Mix currently waiting at the Smithtown Animal Shelter for her furever home.

Equal parts goofy and affectionate, Mia came to the shelter as a stray after being hit by a car and fortunately sustaining only minor injuries. She loves to whip around her rope toys and chase after balls and thinks she is a lap dog and will crawl in your lap and shower you with kisses.

Mia was a yard dog, so she is protective of her space when it comes to strangers, and she will require a home that can properly introduce her to new people. Once she meets a new friend, she loves them unconditionally. Mia would be best as the only pet in the home. She comes spayed, up to date on her vaccines and microchipped.

If you are interested in meeting Mia, please call ahead to schedule an hour to properly interact with her in a domestic setting, which includes a Meet and Greet Room, the dog runs, and a Dog Walk trail. Family Pet Meet and Greets and at home interactions are also welcome and an integral part of the adoption process.

The Smithtown Animal & Adoption Shelter is located at 410 Middle Country Road, Smithtown. Shelter operating hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the weekend. For more information, please call 631-360-7575 or visit

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Motor. Photo courtesy of Smithtown Animal Shelter


Shy cats need love too! 

This week’s shelter pets are, from top, Matty, Motor and Sid, 1-year-old cats at the Smithtown Animal Shelter that are overlooked time and again because they are shy. 

All 3 grew up in the shelter and watched their more outgoing siblings get happy homes. They may take time to let you in, but when they do, they are loving, playful and sweet. These three boys are buds but not bonded. They’d love to be homed together, but will adjust if they aren’t. 

Shy cats need quiet homes with patience and lots of love to give but  they are worth it! The trio come spayed, microchipped and is up to date on their vaccines.

If you are interested in meeting  Matty, Motor and Sid, please call ahead to schedule an hour to properly interact with them.

The Smithtown Animal & Adoption Shelter is located at 410 Middle Country Road, Smithtown. Shelter operating hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the weekend. For more information, please call 631-360-7575 or visit

Learn all about turtles on Dec. 28. Photo from Pixabay

Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery presents a virtual program for children, The Hard Facts About Turtles, on Dec. 28 via Zoom from 10 to 11 a.m. Can turtles come out of their shells?  Learn the hard facts about turtle shells with a storytime, craft, and by meeting some of the hatchery’s terrific turtles. Craft materials needed: paper plate (or a circle cut from paper), printed turtle template (or make your own, scissors, glue, crayons or markers, scraps of colored paper (optional) $15 registration fee. To sign up, visit Call 516-692-6768 for more information.

Park the Christmas Puppy

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

Author Barbara Anne Kirshner with her dog Park

Every December 21st, I pause in the midst of all the hectic Christmas preparations to hold my dachshund, Park, just a little closer and give thanks for the treasures he has brought since he joined our family on that fateful day 14 years ago.

How could I have known when we met, he would bring such companionship, love and countless gifts into my life?

Maybe if I had known, I would have scooped him up the minute I laid eyes on him instead of being so hesitant to add him to our little family.

It was September 2006 when my husband, Gregg, and our two dachshunds, Madison and Lexington, went for a walk in Port Jefferson and wound up in the local pet store. 

The girl behind the counter looked at our brood and said, “You’re dachshund people. There’s a little boy here who needs some attention.” And with that she reached into one of the cages behind the sales counter and brought out a little long-hair black and tan dachshund. As she rested him on the counter, he became the clown that this breed is known for and stood way up on hind legs. He kept that pose amidst oooohs and aaaahs from passersby. He certainly left a big impression, but having three dogs was something I never imagined. 

Once his little act ended, he was sent back to the cage behind the counter and we went home. 

That was but our first encounter with the boy.

Every time Gregg and I went into Port Jefferson, we’d stop at the pet store sure that the pup would be gone, but he remained in that cage — waiting.

As time went on, he was moved from the preferred placement at the front of the store to be that puppy in the window with a pal, a long hair red dachshund.

The next time I visited, the red doxie was gone, but the black and tan boy was now in a cage at the front of a long line of cages. That’s when things started to get pathetic for him.

A few weeks later, he had been moved to one of the middle cages in the long line. Finally, he was relegated to the very last cage at the back of the store.

Park the Christmas Puppy

On December 20, 2006, Gregg and I went to Port Jefferson curious to see if the boy was still there. We fantasized that a loving young couple came to the store, saw this was indeed a very special pup and he was gone.

When we got to the pet store, I couldn’t go inside. I told Gregg to go and come back with happy news that the pup had found his forever home.

I went into a nearby boutique trying to busy myself half looking at items, anxious for the update. 

Gregg rushed to me; alarm etched on his face. “Not only is he still there, but he looks despondent!” That was the word Gregg used:  “despondent.”

I rushed out of that boutique and into the pet store. I ran to the back of the store and sure enough, there he was with his face turned toward the wall.

I called, “Park! Park!” I had the name, an unusual name but perfect if he were to join the doxie pack of Madison and Lexington.

Upon hearing my voice, he looked over his shoulder and stared me down. His unspoken words screamed at me. “If you don’t get me out of this hell hole, don’t bother to come back!”

Gregg leaned over my shoulder and asked, “What should we do?”

I looked from Gregg back to that sad little pup who had been stuck behind those bars for the past four months and then I fled from that pet store.

Conflicting thoughts flooded in. It was December 20th, four days before Christmas Eve when we would host the family dinner followed by Christmas Day when we would be at my sister’s house. On top of the hectic Christmas schedule, I was opening in the New Year’s show at Arena Repertory. I still had to memorize the last remaining scenes.

And on top of that was the gnawing hesitation that I never had a male dog, only female dogs. This was a completely different world I knew nothing about. I was overwhelmed with worry thoughts.

We left Port Jefferson and the sad little pup behind. 

The next day was Monday, December 21st. I had to teach, but Gregg started his Christmas break. When I got home, I headed for my study complaining that I had to get those lines memorized.

But Gregg said, “You can’t do that right now.” I halted and looked at him.

He went on, “Well, I went back to Port Jefferson to the pet store and he was still there and well, now he’s ours. Merry Christmas — he’s your Christmas present!”

I looked around expecting the pup to come bounding out from another room. 

“He’s at the pet store being groomed right now. I wanted us to pick him up together like we did with Madison and Lexington. So, come on, let’s get your Christmas present. When we get home, you can go into your study to work and I’ll take care of the little guy,” Gregg reassured me. 

Conflicting feelings rushed in — excitement, anticipation, hesitation, worry and concern. How could I get everything done with a new pup under foot?

From left, Lexington, Melissa Tulip and Park Kirshner

We went to pick up the little man. He was ushered out from the grooming room, long black fur gleaming and a big, red Christmas bow bobbing around his neck.

Park was placed in my arms and from that day to this, he has never been far from my hugs and kisses. He is my Velcro boy, always there for me. When I’m sad, he licks my tears away. When I’m up in the middle of the night, I hear those now familiar footsteps approach from down the hall. He stays by my side watching over me until sleep returns. 

He is my travel companion. Wherever we go, people flock to him. Cars stop short to admire the precious boy. People have even called out, “That’s the most beautiful dog I’ve ever seen!”

I thank them, then shake my head and wonder how such a magnetic little man spent his early life behind bars, completely passed over by all who came in and out of that well-trafficked store.

When Christmas rolls around each year, I thank Gregg for the best Christmas present I ever got. His response is always the same, “I’ll never be able to top that gift, right?” 


Oh, and that Christmas Eve dinner 2006, it went smoothly with Park the hit of the party. AND I didn’t miss one line opening night of that New Year’s show.

Miller Place resident Barbara Anne Kirshner is a freelance journalist, playwright and author of “Madison Weatherbee —The Different Dachshund.”


All photos courtesy of Barbara Anne Kirshner

By Melissa Arnold

Author Lisa DeFini Lohmann with a photo of Wilson who was the inspiration for her book.

Lisa DeFini Lohmann never imagined that she would become a published author. But then her lovable dog, Wilson, changed her mind. Wilson wasn’t the best looking dog in the world, but that didn’t stop him from winning hearts with his sweet, lovable personality. Lohmann was inspired to share Wilson’s joy with others who may be struggling with self-esteem or personal trials. Her debut chapter book for children, Different Like Me, follows Wilson as he awaits his forever home, makes new friends, and goes on some incredible adventures. Along the way, he learns what it means to love yourself unconditionally, regardless of what others think.

Did you grow up wanting to be a writer?

I was born in the Bronx and moved to Long Island when I was 5 years old. I am a creative person, but my focus has always been on textiles, sewing and crafting. I’m an avid reader, though prior to this I had never written anything before. My paying job is in property management and development — I specialize in communities for people who are 55 and older.

So how did you decide to write a book?

About seven years ago, the real estate market took a hit and I was unemployed for a while. My boys are grown now, and I ended up spending a lot of that time with my dog, Wilson. He grew up to be the most precious of animals, so dear to my heart! We think he was a Shih Tzu mixed with either Brussels Griffon or Affenpinscher. He was 27 pounds but acted like a lion. He wasn’t the cutest of puppies, but he had the most wonderful personality. He was 9 months old when we brought him home.

When you’re not working, you have a lot of time to think about things in ways you may not have before. A friend of mine has a son with a pretty severe learning disability, and hearing of their day-to-day struggles gave me some perspective on what it’s like to be different. I truly believe that God put it on my heart to tell a story about the things that make us unique and different from my dog’s point of view to help kids who may be feeling self-conscious about themselves.

Why did you choose to turn the idea into a chapter book?

I didn’t necessarily set out to write a chapter book, but I knew I wanted the book to be a little deeper than an early children’s book with very few words. There was a certain depth and maturity I was looking for that made more sense as a longer book.

Tell us a bit about the plot.

Different Like Me is about a dog who lives in a pet store and doesn’t like himself because he consistently isn’t chosen to go home with a family. Through a series of events, he learns that he’s perfect just the way he is, and helps others to see that along the way.

What was the writing and publishing process like for you as a first-time author?

I truly believe that when you do something for good in this life, God helps you get it done. And that’s how it was for me. Writing was the easiest part. I didn’t know anybody else who had ever written a book, and so the Internet was a great resource. I did a lot of research online. Ultimately, I chose to work with a company called Outskirts Press. They do what’s called “semi-self-publishing,” which means they select your manuscript for publication and then offer you a number of different options to choose from, like editing. Each option is a la carte and paid for by the author. I’m not an illustrator or an editor, so that was where they came in handy for me.

Who is the illustrator, Richa Kinra? How did you decide to work with her?

The illustrator was connected to Outskirts Press. There were sample images from a number of artists I got to look through, and then I could choose who I wanted to work with. While I never got to meet her, she really captured the essence of the characters and what I was trying to convey with the book. The illustrators don’t have the time or resources to read each project they’re working on, so I needed to provide copious details about each character and image. I’m very happy [with the final product] — the illustrations are very charming.

Do you want to continue writing?

This is not an endeavor for my own financial gain at all. I have what I think are two more books in my head — there’s so much to expand on with these topics of self-acceptance, coping skills, and celebrating diversity. Ideally, I’d love to get picked up by a publisher who will support me financially so that I can focus on the writing.

What do you hope people will take away from reading this book?

Whether people are struggling with COVID, some kind of disability, not fitting in or anything else — I want them to see that the way they were put together, tall or short, fat or thin, is just fine. We were all made differently and have a unique purpose. Even thinking about my own childhood, I was sometimes perceived as stuck-up, when truthfully I was very insecure and shy. We all have an emotional battle that we’re fighting, no matter how old we are. That’s why I believe everyone can relate to this book.

Who would you say is the target audience for this book?

It’s hard to pin down, because I’ve heard that people of all ages are enjoying it — parents are reading it with their 5-year-olds, elementary kids are reading it, and there are even teenagers and college kids who have told me they liked it. So the book is for people of all ages.

Different Like Me is available at your favorite online retailer as well as several Long Island businesses including Book Revue in Huntington and the Reboli Center for Art and History in Stony Brook. Keep up with Lisa DeFini Lohmann on Instagram @wilsonhighstep and on Facebook by searching for Wilson Highstep.



This week’s shelter pet is Cali, a very affectionate 12 to 14-year-old female Cattle Dog mix. Cali and her siblings lost their home when their dad passed away. 

Cali would prefer to spend her golden years showered with love and affection. She needs a home with no children and she does not mind calm dogs. As she is losing her hearing due to chronic ear infections and has severe arthritis, this angel needs a home that can help her navigate these challenges.

She comes spayed, microchipped and is up to date on her vaccines.

If you are interested in meeting Cali, please call ahead to schedule an hour to properly interact with her.

The Smithtown Animal & Adoption Shelter is located at 410 Middle Country Road, Smithtown. Shelter operating hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the weekend. For more information, please call 631-360-7575 or visit