for the F.A.S.T. Co.

K-9 FALK Von Batu 
Officer Bruce K. Bertram - Danbury Police Department - Connecticut 
The Day in The Life of a K-9 Handler

By Bruce K. Bertram

     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?” 


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