It is currently five o’clock in the morning and I have just been woken up by my partner crying. If this were different circumstances it would be cause for alarm; however, this is my perfect reality. My partner is crying as he needs to go outside to relieve himself. No, I didn’t fall asleep on a night shift to be awoken by human crying. This is the oh so familiar sound of a German Shepherd whining. This is a day off of work for me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I am a K9 handler with the Victoria Police Department and have been since September 2013. My partner, Police Service Dog (PSD) Diesel, has been with my family and me since I picked him up from Victoria International Airport in July 2013. I will never forget that day. I had worked a night shift on patrol the previous evening and I couldn’t sleep at all when I got home due to the anticipation of meeting my new partner. I had not been that excited since I thought I was getting a Sega Genesis from Santa when I was 8 years old. This year Santa was bringing me a police dog.... in July.
I could hear Diesel barking as they were rolling his kennel off the airplane and into the baggage area. It was the first time I heard him bark, and I was a proud new parent. I wanted to tell anyone I could find, “Hey, that’s my dog!” although I believe people were more annoyed with the barking dog in the airport, so I kept my joy inside. As he came off the plane and we got him out of his kennel, I didn’t know what to do. Should I pet him? Can I look at him? Will he bite me? (He didn’t). Ultimately, I chose option number one and I gave him a couple of quick pets and loaded him into his kennel in my truck. The best advice I received when I first got him was, “Don’t lose him!”
The bond between Diesel and I formed slowly. The first few weeks and months seemed like I was just a guy with a dog, which, in reality, I was. I was not yet a K9 handler. I could hold his leash, I could provide him the basics of life: food, water, bathroom breaks, companionship and exercise, but to say I knew what I was doing would be a lie. I would walk Diesel, go to a quiet park and lay with him, in hopes that he would show some interest in me, and start to understand that we were in this together. When that bond started to solidify, my world changed forever.
I understand that being a police officer is not for everyone. I also understand that being a K9 officer is not for everyone, but the bond that forms between a handler and the dog is one that cannot be understood until you have truly experienced it. Early this year, I, like many Canadians, was holding back tears while watching the funeral for the fallen RCMP officers in Moncton. If one picture describes the bond between a police dog and their handler, you need look no further than the photo of PSD Danny on his hind legs stretching in the air to smell Cst. Ross’ RCMP dress Stetson. That one photo sums up the bond better than words ever could.
Diesel and I have made it through the four month basic course for K9 handlers and have been on the road in the City of Victoria and the Township of Esquimalt since January 1st, 2014. It has easily been the best months of my policing career, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for us. The bond is there between him and me, and I know that if I ever got in a tough situation Diesel would be there to protect me and to help me without hesitation.
After one year of Diesel living with my family and me, and seven months working together on the streets, I have become closer to him than I could have possibly imagined. I am excited to see how that bond grows throughout his career as a police dog.
Yes, at times, my partner can get a little smelly. Yes, I am responsible for feeding him and picking up after his bathroom breaks and yes, I have to groom him and cut his nails, but I get to go to work with, and spend ten hours a day with my best friend. After a full day of work, he comes home with me and lives with my family. What an amazing job!