Individuals, businesses, support family who lost home and dogs in fire

NORWICH – On Saturday, the local community rallied together and raised funds to support the Armstrong family who recently lost everything in an electrical fire. The benefit was held from noon to 4 p.m. at the Norwich Fire Department and was a successful turnout.

“The community came together big time. Businesses were calling me left and right,” said Norwich Police Officer and New Berlin K-9 Officer Tom Miller who organized the benefit. “The turnout was amazing.”

Miller has close ties to Brett Armstrong, an Environmental Conservation Officer who lost two trained K-9s and the family labrador in the fire. This was a blow both financially and emotionally as Armstrong had used his K-9s to present demonstrations for the last eight years. Armstrong has demonstrated at the Chenango County Fair, Rogers Conservation Center’s Winter Fest, Wolf Mountain Nature Center, and the Chenango County Sheriff’s Camp.

“He's been great for the community,” said Miller of Armstrong and also praised Mrs. Armstrong who works as a teacher. While the family has insurance, it will be a long process to recover everything – especially the K-9s. Miller explained the deep bond between an officer and his K-9 and outlined the intense amount of training it takes to certify a K-9. His own dog, named Nitro in honor of the K-9 Armstrong lost, is nationally certified but still requires 16 hours of training every three months.

Armstrong had just that – a deep bond with his K-9s, which made his loss especially devastating.

The benefit had numerous donations from local businesses and offered food for sale, a 50/50 raffle, Chinese auction and live music with all proceeds to go straight to the Armstrong family.

Businesses included but were not limited to The Hampton Inn in Oneonta, Denny’s Restaurant, The Ontario Hotel, Rentals to Go, New York Pizzeria, Denny’s Liquors, BlueOx, Tops, and D’Abbraccio’s Pizza.

Officers from the police departments of New Berlin, Cortland, Camden and Norwich were present with their K-9s and provided demonstrations. Representatives from the Kramer Foundation also attended. Jes Sheldon, a local vocalist, performed with back up music provided by other local musicians. Frankie G's Porta Party DJ Service also provided entertainment.

A special moment occurred when the Chenango County Federation of Sportsmen's Club honored Armstrong. Representatives of the club Warren Smith and John Fuller presented Armstrong with a check and plaque.

“The check is from all 12 clubs in the federation and the plaque is in memory of the three dogs,” said Smith.

Fuller praised Armstrong for being instrumental in bringing youth programs to the area and was appreciative of the good work he did with his K-9s.

An award and check from the Elks Club was also presented to Armstrong in honor of his contributions and dedication to the community.

To assist the Armstrong family, contact Miller at 316-0922 or via email at

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