A bad guy snatches a bag from a defenseless victim and sprints across a field, making his getaway.
Suddenly a brown streak bursts from a distant car. Racing faster than any human could ever hope to run, a powerful Malinois explodes across 40 yards in seconds, leaps 10 feet into the air and slams the culprit to the ground.
This is no ordinary dog. It’s a highly trained K9, increasingly one of the most important tools used today to fight crime and to defend our country.
I have enjoyed watching these K9 teams in action many times before, but this night is special because, along with several thousand others, I get to witness the amazingly diverse ability of both police and military dog teams.
Each year in Southern California the Orange County Police Canine Association hosts an annual demonstration, and for this year’s event they are joined by the Marine K9 teams from nearby Camp Pendleton, putting on exhibitions as well. It’s all for a great cause, with funds raised going toward families of fallen officers, medical care for retired canines, replacement of canines, and further training for the teams.
The demonstrations are family-oriented, and sometimes downright funny skits, but behind them is a serious message: When it comes to capturing or detaining suspects, detecting drugs or explosives, locating missing people and evidence, or going into battle with a Marine squad, dogs stand apart.
Consider the German Shepherd Dog. With its keen sense of smell, combined with sensitive hearing and vision, a GSD can reduce by hours the amount of time it takes to find a lost child or Alzheimer’s patient, experts say. That difference can mean life or death. One search dog can be more efficient than 20 or 30 trained human searchers, locating a suspect or just a piece of evidence in a vast area.
And these are true teams. The men and women who handle these dogs must make extraordinary commitments and sacrifices. They make it all look easy, but honing their joint skills takes endless hours of constant training and the highest levels of police and military skills.
The coming year is the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and since that fateful day K9 teams have become more important than ever in protecting each of us, our families and our country. To honor our nation’s top police, military and search-and-rescue dogs, DOG FANCY magazine in February will announce a new national service dog award we are creating to recognize the wonderful work by our nation’s police, military and search-and-rescue K9 teams.
If you know about a great K9 team we want to hear about them, and honor them. Watch this blog, or pick up a copy of our February issue for details of this exciting new award.