Monday, April 19, 2010
By Julia Williams
The handsome Belgian Malinois pictured here is Baco, a hard-working K9 who helps fight crime in the Southern California city of Pomona. CANIDAE graciously donated Baco to the Pomona Police Department a year ago, to replace a patrol dog who died from cancer. Officer Theo Joseph is Baco’s human partner on the force (also called a handler), and Baco is his third police dog.
I spoke with Officer Joseph recently to get an update on how Baco has been doing this past year. As it turns out, Baco just recently caught his first bad guy. This “K9 rite of passage” is an important test, as it tells the handler much about the dog, what he has learned, and how he’s likely to perform in the future. According to Officer Joseph, Baco handled his first apprehension of a bad guy (two of them, actually) really well, and shows great promise as a police dog.
With his first bite behind him, Baco can now attend a six-week training for narcotic detection. This cross-training is valuable because it will make Baco an even more useful member of the force. If Baco’s sensitive canine nose detects drugs in a vehicle, Officer Joseph has probable cause to search without needing to obtain a warrant.
Although Baco knows many English words, he has been trained to respond only to commands in Dutch. This can be useful to the officer, since it prevents criminals from knowing what commands are being given. In fact, it’s not uncommon for them to mistakenly think that a command to apprehend is the dog’s name. Whereupon, instead of calming the menacing dog in front of them by calling his name, the criminal is actually saying “grab me, grab me.” Don’t tell the bad guy this, but no matter what he says it won’t cause the dog to retreat or attack, because K9s are taught to respond only to their handler.
Dog officers develop extremely close bonds with their K9 partners, largely because they are with them 24/7. Their dogs go to work with them every day and spend evenings and weekends at their home. “I spend more time with Baco than I do with my family,” joked Officer Joseph.
On those rare occasions when he works a shift without Baco, Officer Joseph said it feels strange. It’s not just the companionship of a dog that he misses, however. Baco’s mere presence can prevent physical confrontations with criminals and diffuse potentially deadly situations. Officer Joseph described an incident where a stand-off occurred between a suspect and police. The man was willing to fight eight officers, but when he heard the bark of just one police dog, he surrendered immediately. This is a perfect illustration of how tremendously valuable K9s are to law enforcement.
Baco eats premium-quality CANIDAE dog food, of course, alternating between the All Life Stages and Chicken & Rice formulas. Officer Joseph believes that the CANIDAE food helps Baco be a better police dog because it gives him the high level of energy he needs, doesn’t cause digestion issues, and satisfies his ravenous appetite.
Although Baco takes his police work seriously, Officer Joseph said he’s also a laidback, low-key canine. This is in stark contrast to the officer’s last K9 partner, another Belgian Malinois named Zorro described as a “Type A” personality. Zorro is retired from the force and lives at home with the family along with Baco and a third dog, a Husky. When he’s not fighting crime, Baco enjoys playing tug-of-war and keep-away with his favorite toy, a plastic bone. He likes country music, and snores while sleeping.
Talking with Officer Joseph brought back fond memories of my college days as a Journalism student. I was assigned to the “police beat” and went on many Citizen Ride-Alongs, including two with K9 units. All of my rides were interesting and educational, but the K9s provided the most fodder for A+ tales. Officer Kaiser and his German Shepherd Samson, were quite the pair. I’d been forewarned by other officers that “the dog stinks to high heaven,” and “Kaiser is the only guy on the force with a dog smarter than he is.” I’ll not divulge whether they were right, but my four-hour ride with this duo was definitely unforgettable.
Samson spent the entire time breathing down my neck from the back seat of the patrol car. When a call came over the radio about a fight at a liquor store, Officer Kaiser spun the car around and accelerated (largely to impress me, I’m sure), and Samson went wild, barking and pacing like mad. The “fight” turned out to be a mild scrap between three macho dudes and a hippie with a dead squirrel in the basket of his moped. (I swear I’m not making that up!). While Officer Kaiser spoke to the men, Samson leaned out the window and kept a keen eye on them. Later, we headed to Samson’s favorite “potty spot.” When Officer Kaiser told Samson to “Take a break!” he flew out the car window, did his business and jumped back in.
Although my memorable Citizen Ride-Alongs occurred many years ago, Officer Joseph said most cities still do them today, but that he and Baco have only done two of them in their first year together. I’m quite certain they weren’t nearly as entertaining as my rides with Officer Kaiser and Samson. Nevertheless, Baco is an exemplary K9, and CANIDAE is proud to sponsor him.
Read more articles by Julia Williams