So you watched an episode of cops and saw the police dog and thought “hmmm I could do that,” or “that looks pretty cool,” am I right? It’s okay because thirteen years ago I thought and said the same thing. But like with all positions in policing you need to be hired, set goals then work to achieve those goals. I first wanted to be a police officer early on in life. I remember a police officer attending my school with his police dog and me thinging “wow.” It was then I set the goal to get hired as a police officer and work towards my dream of being a Police K9 Handler.
Prior to being hired as a police officer, I volunteered for three years with our local k9 units in order to gain as much knowledge as I could in preparation to achieve my goal. I was the guy wearing the apprehension suit or hiding in a tree or muddy culvert. I walked for miles laying tracks and role playing for the k9 team.
Here’s what a lot of people don’t understand, to the dog this is a game. They are not tied up or beaten until made mean, on the contrary my Police Service Dog “Bounty” is quite even tempered. In fact the k9 thinks “you have my toy and I want it back.” So let me digress to the “that’s looks pretty cool” and the “hmmm I could do that.”
In 2008, I was successful in the K9 handler selection with our Police Service. I was on top of the world I couldn’t be happier, finally I’m achieving my goal. I was sent to a major Police service here in Ontario to receive my 12 weeks of training and I was to meet my new partner when I got there. I left my kids behind only to return home on weekends for the next few months.
Finally I got to meet my new partner, his name was “Ivo,” he was not happy even though I smiled and played nice. After a month of working with Ivo, the trainer’s decided Ivo was not going to make the grade. Contrary to popular belief just because you have a German Shepherd doesn’t mean you have a police dog. So now after being a month behind, Ivo was gone and I was off to the airport to meet my new partner and what turned out to be my best friend.
His name was “Lacky” and he’s a German Shepherd from the Czech Republic and just arrived here in Canada. I think it was safe to say he was a little scared and quite confused.
As with any k9 Team there’s a “bonding period” which can vary depending on the dog and the handler. Add into this equation a name change. No, not mine, his. My children decided to call him Bounty after my daughter’s favorite show, “Dog the Bounty Hunter.”
From here on out you will notice I refer to Bounty and I as “us” or “we”. That’s because we are a team. Many said Bounty was the brains of our team and that’s okay because he has made me look great on several occasions. I was off training for a total of four months and all this time Bounty lived with me in a hotel room. Wherever I went, he went, it was all part of the bonding and the trust that is needed to build an effective team. While training we truly worked as a team. When I was tired and couldn’t run anymore he would stop and turn around as if to say let’s go and I would do the same to him. We picked each other up and carried each other through the final three months. During this period of time Bounty was taught to track, building and area search, criminal apprehension, obedience and just as important, socialization skills.
Bounty is an awesome police service dog. He knows when it’s time to work and when it’s time to relax. He’s great with all children. We attended hundreds of schools and the kids would pet him and play with him and the we would go right back to work. He is able to transition very well which made for a very happy team. So one question that may have run through your mind by now is how much does it cost to have a police dog. Well vet bills are approximately $1,000 per year and his food is sponsored so it’s free. The initial training was approximately $75,000. This included the cost of Bounty, the hotel room for four months, my wages and fuel for the vehicle. I’m sure some of you may have just said “wow that’s a lot of money” and you’re right it is, but…the first week out of K9 Training we were able to track down an eleven year old autistic girl who had been missing for six hours at night and in the cold. I’m sure to that family who has their daughter back would agree that it was money well spent. Bounty has saved my life at least twice that I know of and has quite a reputation among our local bad guys. So much that bad guys made three attempts to poison Bounty by throwing tainted meat into my yard.
Bounty has now completed his civic duty. After six years of policing he has earned his retirement and the right to become a pet. He is still my best friend and now the protector of my family. It’s a lot quieter in the cruiser these days and no one there to talk to. I still see the excitement in his eyes when I get dressed for duty and he is even more excited when I return home after my tour. Those of us who are or have been k9 Handlers understand why that is. He knows where I’m going and he is happy I made it home.
So the moral of this story is, chase your dreams, set goals and work to achieve them. Because I’m the one that said “hmmm I could do that” and “that looks pretty cool.”
Larry Johnson #7130 & PSD BOUNTY