Day in The Life of a K-9 Handler
As I'm rolling over in my nice warm bed, I peek out from under the covers.
I see the rain on the window and hear the pattering on the roof, I don't
want to get up. I quietly whisper “ Hey Falk..” I notice two sharp
deep brown eyes staring at me from the edge of a plastic portable kennel
crate. Within what seemed less than a second, I felt the Yin and Yang,
the balance of life, at least for a K-9 handler, of a cold wet nose and
a warm wet tongue. "I’m getting up," I tell him, but his excitement tells
me that I’m not fast enough. I talk to him as if he is my best friend.
Then I stop and think not only he is my best friend, he is much more than
that. He’s my partner, the one that is entrusted in making sure that I’ll
come home alive and well tonight.
After throwing on a pair of BDU’s, a quick name for battle dress uniform,
I walk down the stairs; Falk is already at the side door doing circles.
I reach to a hook next to the door where a metal chain collar is hanging.
On the bottom of the collar, a strip of black leather with a small badge.
At the bottom edge of the badge there’s an inscription “K-9”.
Ok buddy, as I slip the collar on to the now “K-9 Falk”, we can get some
good training in today before our shift starts a four. I wonder to myself,
why is it Falk always runs to the side door and not the back door where
he could lie on the deck and chew a bone or play ball in the grass. Oh
yeah, the police cruiser is parked next to the side door.
We set off and drive to a near by field. I call on the radio to a fellow
police officer and asked him to meet me at the field. With in a short time
he arrives. He makes his greeting to K-9 Falk and then me, but I’m use
to that and to tell the truth, proud of it, a bit like father and son.
Then the officer asks what’s up? "Do you think you could run a track for
me?" I ask. With a look like I should be put in an insane asylum, he replies
it’s raining. Yeah, isn’t that great? Dog’s love to track in the rain.
I’m sure out of respect to K-9 Falk and not me, the officer gets out of
his cruiser mumbling something about being nuts and what do you want me
to do. After a short explanation, my fellow lays a short but nice track.
I thank him, say our good-byes and begin our tracking training. The morning
training went well and K-9 Falk and I return home. I open the door to my
house and K-9 Falk walks into the kitchen where he gives a good shake.
As the water, mud and bits of debris hit the ceiling and walls, it crosses
my mind that I’d better throw a coat of paint on the kitchen pretty soon.
My wife hearing that we had arrived home, walks into the kitchen and upon
seeing the muddy foot prints left by our morning trudge through the woods,
greets us with “Good morning Falk.” Then turns to me and says, “Don’t forget
to clean up the floor.”
It’s time for work. Back into the cruiser and to the Police Department.
K-9 Falk and I head for roll call, it’s Monday which means inspection day.
The sergeant walks into the room and orders all the officers to line up.
K-9 Falk and I take our place in the center of the line. The Sergeant walks
down the line eyeing up and down from shiny shoes to a clean weapon. The
Sergeant stops in front of me. “Boots look good, service weapon good, but
you have more hair on your pants than your partner does.” I just smile
and agree. We go back into the cruiser, and head for the donut shop.
Most people think cops like donuts; it’s the coffee we like. As I walk
into the shop, I’m greeted by the young lady behind the counter. “How’s
Falk? Do you want the usual?” I reply he’s fine and I’m fine too.
She hands me a bag with the usual, a small regular coffee and one munchkin.
I sit back into my cruiser. K-9 Falk is sitting up with one paw over the
front seat. I tell him relax “I got it, I got it. Hold on.” Reaching into
the bag I pull out the munchkin. “Here you go.” Well he’s happy as I see
him taking his place in the back seat.
When people ask what’s it like being a policeman? I tell them 7 hours
and 59 minutes of boredom and 1 minute of pure terror. The night is quiet
with the light rain still falling. The end of the shift is nearing when
a radio dispatch breaks the silence two units are dispatched to a burglary
in progress. What do you say Falk, let's head that way, as I’m sure the
dispatcher is going to send us also. Before I can shift the cruiser into
drive the dispatcher radios me. K-9 Falk immediately rouse to a sitting
position. He had learned to recognize my call number. We arrive shortly
after the first dispatched units. As I exit my cruiser one of the officers
approach me and ask if my dog can track in the rain. The officer continues
that a suspect had run off into the wooded area and that he didn’t know
if he was armed. I pop the trunk lid and grab a tracking leash. K-9 Falk
upon seeing the leash becomes excited whining and pacing in the back of
the cruiser. As I open the door to the cruiser, everyone steps back.
I hear one of the officers in a quiet voice say “Go get’em Falk.” As I’m
hooking on the leash, I ask “Who’s my backup officer?” With out hesitation
that same officer replies, “Let’s go.” I bring K-9 Falk to the area where
the suspect was last seen. You can tell when the K-9 has found the scent.
The ears come up straight and the nose settles in toward the ground. We
were off into the wood line. Tracking through the wooded area I noticed
that we were headed toward a lighted parking lot. K-9 Falk slowed his tracking;
his head came up as he began to smell the scent in the air in front of
us. I was sure the suspect was close as his tail was whipping back and
forth in anticipation of a chance to chase the suspect down. I quietly,
but strongly command my backup officer to take cover, as the suspect is
close. I command K-9 Falk to a laying down position. I yell out “Police
Department with a K-9. Speak to me now or I’ll release the K-9!”
All is quiet for a brief moment, and then I hear the breaking of twigs
and the crushing of leaves. I see a silhouette of a man running toward
the parking lot. Upon seeing him I yell, “Police stop or I’ll send my dog!”
By now the suspect had reached the parking lot. I have a clear view
of him and so does K-9 Falk. The suspect is not stopping. All this
excitement is just too much for K-9 Falk as he lets out his own commands.
I release K-9 Falk. With the agility of a deer and the power of a tiger,
he is through the wood line on to the parking lot. All I can do now is
start heading toward the parking lot and pray the suspect doesn’t have
a gun. It seems as if every thing has gone into slow motion, as I’m
recalling a similar incident where at the end of the track, a gun battle
began and K-9 Falk was shot in the neck trying to protect me. Well this
is the one minute of pure terror. As I reach the edge of the parking lot,
I see the suspect has realized that I really did have a dog and that the
dog was out running him. The suspect stops and turns toward my direction,
I draw my duty weapon from its holster, as I scan the suspect and his movements
for any sign of a weapon. What I see is a teen-age boy throwing his hands
as high as he can screaming “Don’t let the dog bite me!” I call out
“Falk, Here!” With only but a brief hesitation, K-9 Falk obeys my
command to return to me. K-9 Falk had been so close to the suspect that
he had to run past the suspect and circle around his back to return to
me. As K-9 Falk approaches my side I praise him. “At’a good boy.” And pat
his head as I grab hold of his collar. My backup officer seeing this
“close encounter of a K-9 kind”, utters a few words that wouldn’t be spoken
in polite company and something about the kid having to change his shorts.
He then rushes toward the young suspect. The teen is place under arrest
and transported to booking. I think to myself if that kid had hesitated
for just a few seconds, we’d be calling an ambulance for him instead. As
I walk back to my cruiser, the sergeant approaches me. “Good job, nice
police work Falk, oh and you too Bertram.” Most people would take offense
to being second best to a dog, but to a K-9 handler it just makes us prouder.
Kind of like a father when his son hits a home run.
Back at the station the teen is being booked, the jewelry taken in the
burglary is recovered from the teens pockets. I’m finishing my paper work
and K-9 Falk, well he’s under the computer table sound asleep. Done for
this shift. “Time to go home Falk.” We walk out the back door of the station
and into the cruiser, heading home. I pull into the driveway open the cruiser
door. K-9 Falk jumps out and heads for the bushes, within seconds he’s
returning being escorted by his cat. This is an every night ritual. We
all enter our house and into the kitchen where I get the food bowls. “You
guys hungry?” The cat is swirling and rubbing around K-9 Falk’s face and
with one wet lick to the cats head, he turns her into a resemblance of
a punk rocker. I stare at the two of them “Yeah big, bad police dog, right?”
Their fed, I kick back in my lounge chair. You have to watch your
K-9 for a couple of hours after you feed them as they “bloat”. Bloat
is when their stomach flips over inside. It can kill your K-9 very
quickly. “What you say Falk, bed time?” In to his kennel cage
all curled up. I wonder how he can fall asleep so fast.
I’m startled awake from a dead sleep by something cold and wet. I open
my eyes and see two dark brown eyes staring back at me with an expression
of anticipation. “Morning already, big guy? “What do you say, How about
some drug training today?”