Welcome to K-9

I was born with a dog in the house. I will more than likely die with a dog in the house. Over the years, I have found that dogs have been a mental and emotional necessity for my family. They are the constant in our chaotic lives. If you are a dog person, you understand exactly what I mean. After many different breeds, I have seen that some dogs possess more intelligence, while others thrive on loyalty. Some live to hunt, while others live to protect their family, or as they see it, their pack. The one similarity is they all have a purpose. They are most fulfilled and happy serving their purpose.

Thirty-six years of dogs, and I have loved every one of them. They have all amazed me with their individual traits during their time with my family. But this dog that has slept next to my bed for six years and eight months is different. This dog has a piece of my heart that no other dog has ever possessed. I find myself heartbroken for him now.

For me, there was a lot of uncertainty when he came into our lives. He came to us at about one and a half years old, barking a lot, trying to escape his kennel to only break his teeth. He has had little regard when throwing himself into bites and chasing people he was asked to chase. He has jumped over 6-feet fences and off 10-feet berms. He has barreled through double pane glass windows, tail wagging, and still getting the bite, even as his paw gushed blood. But that is the breed. That is the drive. He was only serving his purpose.

I have painted the bedroom walls grey to cover the dander and dirt smears he leaves when he rubs against the wall. I have bleached our white bath rugs weekly, and steam cleaned our carpets more than I ever thought possible. My friends have received pictures of the dirty water tank of my carpet cleaner, and we all laughed at the black water. I would always head the image off with “Welcome to K-9.”

It is true when a LEO wife claims that their spouse and k-9 partner spend more time together than with his family. There was a time that I felt some jealousy. This dog occupied so much of my husband’s time, our plans always revolve around his needs, and he comes everywhere with us. It has been seven years since we did anything spontaneous and did not have to plan based on the needs of this dog. There was a time that I wished my husband had never went into K-9. Working never stops when you have a police dog at home.

Unless he is going to work their long, overnight shift, he lives in a kennel by our bed, going outside from a walk and to stretch every three to four hours. Years went by that I did not interact with him. It took just as long for him to get used to me. It took years to not feel a sense of fear that this dog would bite me, after all that is what he was trained to do, although I never saw an aggressive side to him. He had been anxious and unsure of us just as we were of him.

He has spent six years and eight months of his life protecting my husband and serving the community, even though he just thought he was having fun. He has been my husband’s partner and protector. I trust this dog to protect my husband more than I would trust any other equipment a police officer can carry. That is what police k-9 dogs are. They are equipment. He is Sheriff’s office property. He is a living form of non-lethal tools meant to protect and serve the needs of the community and fellow officers. That has been his purpose.

I have witnessed the extreme joy and excitement he has in going to work. The dedication to my husband and work has been an incredible thing to experience. It is hard not to laugh when he yelps in excitement and spins in his kennel 20 times when he sees my husband get dressed in his uniform. That joy and work ethic is not possessed by most people. I have listened to years of stories of their accomplishments as a team, and his abilities. I have heard “he is not a family pet. He has to stay focused on work.” Over the past several years I have heard the pride in my husband’s voice as he tells me that they caught someone or took drugs off the street. Inside I have beamed along with them on each of their accomplishments, and their success in their mutual purpose.

This strange dog, which the kids and I were so long unsure of, has become an amazing family member that everyone is still fascinated by. His personality is so big, it is impossible to not love him, even after limiting the time he spent socializing with us all. He has kept his ambition at work, even when his joints keep him from his once youthful capabilities. He knows he has aged and there is an air of frustration. He can no longer leap a 6-foot-tall fence without limping for a week and being put on pain medication. His back has suffered from his desire to work, despite how high a fence is, or how far someone has run, or what stood in his way, glass windows included.

There is no doubt, this dog will be lost for a little while. His purpose has been to protect my husband, listen to my husband, find “bad guys”, and ride around in the car for 10 to 12-hour shifts. That is what he loves to do. But his time has come. His current purpose will end. He will be forced to see my husband put on that uniform, then leave without him.

He will be depressed, anxious, and perhaps him and I will bump heads more often. There is no doubt he will win most of our future battles.  I have been tasked with helping him find a new purpose. It will by my goal to help him socialize and become a family dog when my husband is working. The goal will be to keep him active enough to hopefully counteract his injuries. Those injuries will most likely cause increasing pain the more he ages and one day he just will no longer be able to get up on his own. But he had his purpose, his drive, and his happiness.

In two shifts, this dog will discover heart ache and disappointment as he watches my husband leave for work without him. Maybe it is the woman and mother in me, but my heart breaks knowing that this purpose he loves and lives for will disappear very soon. Another side knows that he will completely jump into protecting the entire family, keeping me active on daily walks, and make the kids laugh hysterically at his excitability and cold, wet nose jabs to their face. He will find his purpose as a family pet in our five-person, two dog pack.  His current life is coming to an end in just two shifts. Starting Friday, we set out on a new journey with a new purpose.