MEMORIAL SERVICE HONORS POLICE, MILITARY K-9s

Garden Of Heroes, Palm Harbor, Florida

Sergeant Mike Kilian conducted the memorial ceremony to honor police and military K-9s
Sergeant Mike Kilian conducted the memorial ceremony to honor police and military K-9s

The events are just two months apart. On March 5th I attended a memorial service honoring police and military K-9s, in north Pinellas County, Florida. The exact location is the Garden of Heroes, an area reserved for service animals and K-9 dogs on the beautiful grounds of Curlew Hills Memory Garden in Palm Harbor.

And yesterday, on May 27th, the nation celebrated Memorial Day. I took this photo a few days prior, just after local Boy Scouts had placed flags throughout the entire property. It was an emotional sight.

At Curlew Hills Memory Garden’s pet cemetery for K-9 heroes, 73 flags fly in preparation for Memorial Day 2019
At Curlew Hills Memory Garden’s pet cemetery for K-9 heroes, 73 flags fly in preparation for Memorial Day 2019

Pastor Danny McDonald Officiated

“All dogs go to heaven.” These words often appear on social media. However, it’s especially poignant when they are said at a memorial service to honor police and military dogs. I think, without exception, we all believe that.

Pastor Danny McDonald lead officers, family members and community supporters in prayer and words of gratitude
Pastor Danny McDonald lead officers, family members and community supporters in prayer and words of gratitude

In addition, Pastor McDonald told the attendees that working dogs have “enormous heart” and are motivated to fulfill their mission to serve. He also said that the memorialized K-9s were “Knights of Valor.” How true.

MILITARY WAR DOG

MWD Sgt E5 Pphantom USAF

Sgt Pphantom completed nine years of service in base security with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Recipient of the United States War Dog Association War Dog Medal, he retired and was adopted by Bill and Sheila Schroeder. 

The ceremony memorializing law enforcement and war dogs was covered extensively by the media
The ceremony memorializing law enforcement and war dogs was covered extensively by the media

MILITARY SERVICE DOG

MSD Honey

Honey was a Certified Full Mobility, P.T.S.D., Medical Service Dog. She was the faithful friend and partner/companion to U.S. Army Veteran, Michael Gaither. “She saved me, my life many times, and always had my back, always by my side.” 

LAW ENFORCEMENT DOGS

As expected, those present at the ceremony memorializing both law enforcement and war dog heroes experienced a range of emotions. As each officer paid tribute to their K-9 partner, there was pride and sadness, as well as smiles, laughter, and tears. Here’s a tiny part of their stories.

It’s tough when you lose your working partner, closest friend and cherished family member
It’s tough when you lose your working partner, closest friend and cherished family member

K-9 Axel, Handler Sergeant Kilian, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office

Dual certified in patrol and narcotics, Axel was a great dog. But he was also somewhat of a problem child due to his loud, obnoxious barking. And he had a few bites on deputies while on calls for service. Nothing too serious, though!

K-9 Buck, Handler Officer Ambrose, Clearwater Police Department

Buck was so smart they had to change the way they did bomb detection training. He figured out how the reward towels were set up with fishing lines. As a result, the trainers moved the lines to the other side of the fence so he couldn’t see them. He also had an “on/off switch.” He was as sweet and patient as could be when visiting a kid’s school and then go straight back to business.

K-9 Egon, Handler Retired Sergeant Wagner, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office

On one call, Sergeant Wagner thought he knew more than his partner. He was pretty sure that the suspect was hiding behind a car even though Egon had alerted in the bushes that were directly behind his handler. Eventually Sgt Wagner took Egon back to the bushes where the suspect was. The big take away from his experience…“Trust your dog!”

K-9 Koa, Handler Retired Officer Dawson, Clearwater Police Department 

I really wish I had a copy of the poem that Officer Dawson wrote about his friend, companion and working partner, Koa, so I could share it with you. But, unfortunately, I don’t. What I can tell you, though, is that it was long, beautifully written and, very emotional. After having been with Clearwater PD for 20 years, Ofc. Dawson now works with Pinellas County School Police.

K-9 Scout, Handler Officer Burnside, Clearwater Police Department

Now, this is some story about a K-9 trained to detect drugs and firearms. On his first day home he was loose inside and what did he do? Well, he started running in full sprints in circles, ran into the china cabinet, and broke all the plates!

K-9 Toby, Handler Deputy Blizniak, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office

Toby was a stellar, single purpose, narcotics detection dog assigned to the Narcotics Unit. He loved to swim and got so much enjoyment from this activity whenever he had the opportunity.

Somehow this handsome working dog knew who we were memorializing that day
Somehow this handsome working dog knew who we were memorializing that day

A Working Dog’s Oath

At this memorial service honoring the area’s police and military K9s that had passed during the last 12 months, somebody gave me a small card. Here is the text in a different format. It sums up the life, duty and sacrifice of those who protect us.

This working dog’s oath says it all
This working dog’s oath says it all

To Sum Up

The article here that is entitled Memorial Service Honors Police Military K-9s is just the second one I’ve written about working dog heroes. I’m looking forward to doing more research so, if you have any ideas for future topics, please let me know.

And, in case you missed the K-9 graduation story, you can read about it here. https://petpeevesunmasked.com/k9-graduation-day-clearwater-florida/

K9 GRADUATION DAY CLEARWATER FLORIDA

Dogs And Handlers Display Skills, Dedication

An introduction to K-9 graduation day in Clearwater, Florida

“Taco” hadn’t even graduated yet but he was already a hero. Just days before Clearwater Florida hosted K9 graduation day, this talented police dog made his very first apprehension. He caught a driver who had run into the woods and was hiding behind a bulldozer. This was after crashing into another vehicle and rolling into a pond. Taco’s handler, Corporal Matthew Aitken, of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, then arrested the man for leaving the scene of a crash with injuries. Bravo, “Taco”!

Days before Clearwater Florida hosted their annual police dog certification event, “Taco” had already made his first catch
Days before Clearwater Florida hosted their annual police dog certification event, “Taco” had already made his first catch

Teams Of Two Plus Guests

I had never attended an event like this before and I’m so glad I did. It was great to see the community, many parents and children, supporting Florida’s law enforcement. In addition, there were many working dogs and their handlers who also came out to cheer on their fellow officers. After all, they’ve been through this themselves and know exactly how it feels on this special day.

K-9 Certification Ceremony

On March 19 this year the police dog certification event was hosted by Clearwater, Florida, and held at Countryside High School football field. The Master of Ceremonies was Sergeant Mike Kilian of the Special Operations Division – K9 Unit whom I’d met a few weeks earlier at a local Sheriff’s Youth Ranch Open House.

He explained that the Basic Patrol training program had lasted an intensive four months, from November 2018 thru February 2019 at several different locations. They included both Sheriff and Police Department K-9 compounds as well as a few private businesses that allow law enforcement to use their facilities during non-working hours. 

Together with their handlers, these fab five K-9s are now officially certified, ready to uphold the law and keep our communities safe
Together with their handlers, these fab five K-9s are now officially certified, ready to uphold the law and keep our communities safe

Meet The Graduates

You already caught a glimpse of them in the video but here’s a formal introduction. These are the fab five working dogs that we honored on K9 graduation day in Clearwater. They are now all doing extremely well and performing their duties to uphold Florida law.

K-9 “Logan” and handler Deputy Anthony Lorusso from Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

K-9 “Chato” and Officer Nathaniel Hansmann from Largo Police Department.

K-9 Charlie K “CK” and Officer Tommy Nguyen from Tarpon Springs Police Department.

K-9 “Smitty” and Deputy Jacob Baroff from Pasco County Sheriff’s Office

And last, but by no means least, is the duo K-9 “Taco” and Corporal Matthew Aitken, who also happens to be the course instructor. And his right hand man throughout the training period was Assistant Instructor, Deputy Robert Wilkins, from Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.

An impressive demonstration of discipline and obedience, working in pairs off leash
An impressive demonstration of discipline and obedience, working in pairs off leash

Action-Packed Demos

I must say it’s pretty impressive to see a really long line of K-9 cruisers circle the field with lights flashing. Then, once they were in their allotted spaces, handlers and dogs awaited signals for action. The group comprised seasoned working dogs and rookies about to join their ranks. Also, a very young little guy who totally impressed us with his smarts and cuteness. The attendees would meet him later.

Police dogs play a vital role in detecting narcotics, some eventually become dual certified patrol/narcotics K-9s
Police dogs play a vital role in detecting narcotics, some eventually become dual certified patrol/narcotics K-9s

We saw agility demonstrations consisting of jumping fences and walking in between the handler’s legs while on the go. In addition, there were narcotics and explosive device detection demos. And, of course, locating and catching bad guys with their bite technique apprehensions. 

These demos are thrilling to watch, but in actual fact the dogs bite less than 16 percent of the suspects they apprehend
These demos are thrilling to watch, but in actual fact the dogs bite less than 16 percent of the suspects they apprehend

But on K9 graduation day it was “Chaos,” the puppy-in-training, who melted everyone’s heart. I wonder how he got that name! Directed by his handler, Deputy Rob Wilkins with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office K9 Unit, it was immediately obvious that he was a natural. He knew exactly how to apprehend the “fake” suspect despite his juvenile stature.

Precious puppy-in-training “Chaos” showed us all that it’s never too early to learn apprehension techniques
Precious puppy-in-training “Chaos” showed us all that it’s never too early to learn apprehension techniques

Out Of The Blue

Well, we had all been promised a few surprises. And this was by far the best one of all. The noise got closer and louder. Then we saw it. The helicopter landed on the football field right in front of us. Suddenly out jumped K9 “Hector,” followed by Deputy Brad Byers, revved up to chase down another suspect. Not wasting a second, they went straight into action and got their man! That’s what I call a perfect example of how to hit the ground running!

Wow, a chopper landed at the graduation ceremony and out jumped seasoned K-9 “Hector” and his handler
Wow, a chopper landed at the graduation ceremony and out jumped seasoned K-9 “Hector” and his handler

Unexpected Dangers

Let’s pause now for a moment to think about another aspect of what’s involved here. Even though the public feels the thrill and excitement when watching these training exercises, let’s not forget that this work has very real elements of danger. Sometimes they lurk out of sight, are totally unexpected, and can have deadly consequences. One such example involved K9 “Ozzy” during an assignment where he went into a swamp. As a result, he picked up a bacterial infection that spread very rapidly. Sadly, it overwhelmed him and he couldn’t be saved.

He was certified in March 2018 and had been on duty up until November. During that short time he had already chalked up 20 catches in the City of Largo. Gone too soon, he was in his prime and had been the partner of Officer Nate Hansmann with the Largo Police Department. Nevertheless, he passed his baton to another wonderful dog and was proudly remembered. Through the graduation of this officer’s new partner, K9 “Chato” will now carry on his valuable work.

Events like these are a great opportunity for law enforcement to interact with families in the community
Events like these are a great opportunity for law enforcement to interact with families in the community

Forever Grateful

These magnificent law enforcement dogs respond every day to the call of duty. Their valor and sacrifice are a vital contribution towards keeping our communities safe. 

Thank you all for your service.

Coming Soon

Stay tuned for teasers on Facebook and LinkedIn about my next Florida K-9 story which will be published very soon. In the meantime, if you haven’t already done so, please follow my pet parenting page. You’ll be able to stay up-to-date on all things dogs and cats. http://www.facebook.com/PetPeevesUnmasked/


DOGS TRAINED TO DETECT SPIKED CIGARETTES

The dogs trained to detect spiked cigarettes in the UK are often Spaniels
In the UK, the dogs trained to detect spiked cigarettes are often Spaniels

Spaniels Are Doing The Sniffing

In our latest Pet Hero story, we highlight the work of dogs trained to detect spiked cigarettes. And, in the U.K., many of these wonderful dogs are Spaniels.

The supply and demand for cheap, illicit and extremely harmful tobacco products has reached a new high across the pond. However, despite the challenges that law enforcement faces to apprehend the culprits, their job is now a whole lot easier. And these sweet-natured canine heroes have made this possible.

Spaniels, both purebred and crossbred, are being used to detect spiked cigarettes and loose tobacco. In addition, they sniff out legitimate merchandise that is smuggled into the country.

These sniffer dogs are sometimes equipped with bodycams that document their work. As a result, the footage can be released for public viewing to heighten awareness of the health dangers from smoking tainted tobacco.

Targeting Central London

In recent months, police conducted a raid at a hair salon in the heart of London’s West End. The dogs discovered nearly 30,000 fake cigarettes hidden in suitcases inside Lego toys and laptop cases. 

Scamp And Phoebe

I read recently about another seizure in the East Midlands county of Northamptonshire that had taken place a few years back. To my delight, the article mentioned the two dog heroes. Their names are Scamp, a Springer Spaniel, and Phoebe, a Sprocker Spaniel, which is a cross between a Springer and a Cocker!

Dangers And Loopholes

Products such as these are not only cheaper than genuine ones and can reach more consumers, especially juveniles, they are dangerously toxic. Analyses show that they often contain elevated levels of cancer-causing chemicals, such as nicotine, tar, lead, cadmium and arsenic. Even more shocking, lab technicians have also found stuff as gross as rat droppings and camel excrement. 

And, let’s not forget that these dogs and their handlers also help out in another way. After all, they prevent the loss of government revenue in the form of duty and sales tax when non-counterfeit products are smuggled in.

When detector dogs sniff out spiked cigarettes they are saving lives.This is yet another example of what happens when humans and animals work as a team. Truly great things happen.

Together, let’s keep our precious pets healthy, happy and safe!