A local "Dancing with the Stars"-type contest has made 12-year-old Margaret O'Connell a star with the Fairfield Police Department.

The Tomlinson Middle School seventh-grader danced her way to a second-place finish in the recent competition at the Gaelic American Club, and chose the department's new K-9 unit as the recipient for her $700 winnings.

All participants chose a charitable group, O'Connell said, in case they won. Asked by Police Chief Gary MacNamara why she decided Ruger -- the department's recently acquired German shepherd -- would be her beneficiary, the young dancer quietly replied, "I like dogs."

O'Connell has been dancing at Fred Astaire Studios since August, and danced the cha cha in the competition.

She got to meet Ruger, and his handler Officer Kevin Wells, along with MacNamara and Sgt. Suzanne Lussier Tuesday when she came with her mother to present the check.

Wells explained the many different things Ruger has been trained to do, and O'Connell was given a thank-you gift of her own -- a special dog tag and a small photo book showing Wells and Ruger in action.

"This is the first ever," MacNamara said of the book. "Nobody else has a book like that."

Both Wells and MacNamara said what O'Connell did was special to them.

"A lot of people have donated money to the K-9 unit," MacNamara said, but "it's real neat" when a youngster thinks of the canine cop.

"This is very special," Wells said to O'Connell. "You did a great job."