Military and Police

Dogs of War and the Depraved Sickos Who See Red in the Presence of Blue

In my earliest criminology studies it became clear that humans harming animals is the precursor of worse things to come from the perpetrator. Of course, one may knee-jerk and take offense to that very notion. Who is to say that an animal’s life is low on the rungs of existence? “It’s just a dog,” some say. As an animal owner/lover myself, I can attest to the virtues of my dog and the indubitable glee he brings to humans and canines alike.

Having been a police officer working alongside police K9 units on myriad calls necessitating a spectacular sniffer, I have a deeper adoration for the capacity and devotion of canines. Indeed, during the course of police duty, bad guys sometimes decide to fight back and attack police dogs. Stories of suspects drowning, shooting, knifing, and otherwise bludgeoning police dogs compel wonder as to human depravity and desperate measures when the law is hot on the track of criminals. Bad guy barometer goes up in red when they see blue on their coattails.

A recent incident in which a police canine was killed in the line of duty evolved when police dog “Vader” was routinely riding with his police handler, chasing a stolen vehicle on Interstate 95 in Virginia. It was shattering to realize the police dog had no chance and essentially died in its police SUV kennel.

The Virginia State Police press release stated the following details: “At approximately 8:18 a.m. on Aug. 1, 2018, a Virginia State Police trooper was traveling north on Interstate 95 in Sussex County when he identified a vehicle that had been reported stolen out of Connecticut. The trooper activated his lights and siren to initiate a traffic stop on the vehicle. The vehicle’s driver refused to stop for the trooper and sped away.” A police pursuit ensued. One of the pursuing VSP trooper vehicles was a K9 unit with police dog “Vader” on board and ready to go to work. Cops anywhere will candidly tell you how gratifying it is to have a work dog in such circumstances. In this case, however, it never came to fruition.

During the vehicle pursuit, the suspect driver was exchanging gunfire with Virginia State troopers. Somehow, one of the suspect’s bullets struck Vader as he was staged in his kennel. Police K9 Vader didn’t make it, and neither did the armed auto thief. Upon this chase coming to an end, resulting in the death of a canine law officer, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that the now-deceased suspect was wanted on double-homicide charges after shooting two women, one of whom was shot/killed in front of her young children.

The aforementioned police pursuit is largely reminiscent of the July 2018 Las Vegas Metro police chase in which the suspects fleeing in a stolen car after murdering a man were also unloosing bullets at pursuing officers. In a hair-raising feat, the lead police car was taking gunfire so he shot back…right through his windshield. The only exception is there was no police canine in the caravan of cop cars, and no police personnel were injured.

On July 31, 2018, Baytown, Texas cops were attempting to arrest a woman on a felony drug warrant when she lunged and stabbed a police canine under both eyes. The police dog survived, and 23-year-old Abigail Martinez remains in jail.

A separate police K9 incident, also on July 31, involves “Mick” who was shot by an absconder in Maricopa County, Arizona. The Glendale Police press release offered a synopsis of what transpired: “On July 31, 2018, just before 5:30PM, Glendale Police K-9 Officer Wes Zygmont and K-9 Mick were involved in the OIS. Unfortunately, Glendale Police K-9 Mick was struck during the exchange of gunfire and taken to a local valley animal hospital where he was treated and underwent surgery for two separate gunshot wounds. Mick is currently recovering.”

July 31, 2018: Glendale, Arizona police K9 “Mick” was shot by an absconder who was a fugitive since Feb. 2018. (Credit: Facebook/Glendale Police Department – Arizona)

An equally disheartening episode is when a hugely successful police dog succumbs to duty-related injury and/or illness, ending in death. That was the case recently when Colorado Springs police dog “Remme” suffered spinal deficiency resulting in euthanasia after the veterinarian’s unfavorable prognosis.

K9 Remme was instrumental in discovering $1.7 million in drugs while also befriending a bunch of friends during 33 of his “public demonstrations.” Police dogs in public relations efforts are never a waste of time and are consistently awe-inspiring for spectators who observe what we are discussing herein: their keen senses, loyalty, mission fulfillment, and dedication to duty.

Police dogs have no idea what drugs do to the human body; they only know that their job is to find the stash and alert their police partner/handler. The words “Find the dope” or just “Dope” are verbal commands directing the dog to fulfill its role as a drug-seeking phenom. They don’t disappoint.

Canines unfailingly fill the loyalty bill. Further, the co-reliance between police handler and canine melds mission effectiveness. Street cops are gratified to see these duos around the beat. Watch any cop show like LivePD or COPS, and you will see unshakeable bonds exemplifying the adage “Train, train, train!” Work dogs’ acute responses to their handler’s commands is uncanny.

These works dogs are not easily distracted. They are not enamored with the attention of anyone except their trainers/handlers. The crisp focus on what their police handler is asking them to do is impeccable partnership. That makes for a dynamic duo in modern-day policing of any Gotham in America. I am not embarrassed to admit that my police department’s contingent of police canines knew a second language (German) before I did—neither did most other humans employed by my agency. That is not to knock humans but to implore the fastidiousness and concentration of dogs in general, and the trainers who cross the bridge connecting mutually-serving humans and canines.

The following brief YouTube video depicts the relationship between a police dog and his handler (“Mom”). Albeit poignant, it has a somber portion exhibiting K9 Kota’s severe injuries sustained in the line of duty.

As you just watched, the cup of respect overflowed: Although K9 Kota survived line-of-duty injuries/surgeries, he rehabilitated and retired from police service. He passed over the Rainbow Bridge about nine months ago. 

In that video, police “Mom” and Kota shared what many folks envy in life. The mutual dedication and galvanized loyalty which makes life so robust is present in their partnership. In my police experience, it was always the case among police dogs/handlers. Some cops love their canine partner more than some human beings. Judge that as you will; but a dynamic duo unconditionally sharing a mélange of emotions, dignity, and respect serve as the icon for which we all co-exist. It is okay to argue that: my truth is not everyone’s truth, and I respect perspectives contrary to mine. Dogs make it quite easy. This story’s feature photo portraying K9 Kato and his police handler evince these words.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Stephen Owsinski

Stephen Owsinski is an OpsLens Content Manager and Contributor. Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer. Follow Stephen on Twitter @uniformblue.

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