It's been two months since Fairfield Police Officer Kevin Wells first made his acquaintance with "Ruger," his new partner in crime fighting.

"I couldn't ask for a better dog," Wells said, as Ruger, a German shepherd, made his first public appearance Monday to be "sworn in" as a member of the town's police force. As Ruger saw all the people gathered for the occasion, Wells was forced to give the command -- "Sit!"-- several times. "This is the first time he's been in a crowd like this. We've just started obedience classes."

"A great deal of effort has gone into this effort," Police Commission Chairman Arthur Hersh. "We'd like to thank the community as a whole for the outpouring of support."

The new canine has been paid for solely through donations collected from individuals, school children and corporations, including the most recent pledge from Sturm Ruger & Co., a gun manufacturer headquartered here, to pay for the dog's annual maintenance costs.

"It was almost a year ago now that we realized within the department that a K-9 program was a need and one we hadn't fulfilled for several years," Chief Gary MacNamara said.

On hand for the swearing-in ceremony was retired Sgt. William Krafick, who served as one of the department's K-9 officers from 1987 to 1991. Krafick said he knew firsthand how valuable a police dog can be to a department, helping to ensure not only the public's safety, but officers' as well.

After the earlier K-9 program was discontinued, MacNamara said, the department has relied on neighboring communities with police dogs when it needed canine assistance.

Michael Fifer, CEO of Sturm Ruger, said company officials are honored that the dog was named Ruger, a moniker chosen by Wells. In addition to paying the dog's annual maintenance costs, the company presented Wells with a new firearm and a goody bag for Ruger.

Wells said he and Ruger will begin full-time training in about a week or so. "It's very challenging," Wells said, but Ruger "is very eager to work. It's all play to him."