By Lori Pacchiano
While the waiting list is long to become a Police Officer in the Specialty K9 UNIT, the dogs themselves do not sign up for the highly coveted positions and the ones who are selected are impeccable animals, physically and mentally built for the work they do. Since dogs do not apply or sign up for the job, don’t we owe them something in return?
The life of a canine officer is admirable. These extraordinary dogs have a duty to protect and serve that surpasses the easy life of just getting to be a regular housedog. The responsibility of a K9 dog is serious and they are often the ones being placed in danger as they work to capture criminals in our communities. These amazing and courageous creatures are deployed into unfathomable situations and risk everything to accomplish their job.
Trained to Trust and intended to be a partnership for life
You may wonder what a police dogs’ drive is to serve in situations that put their lives at risk and it comes down to one thing; the bond they share with their handlers. The relationship is mutual. I can’t think of one officer who wouldn’t be willing to protect his dog. They have a connection that is unbreakable and together they are a unified team who learns to read each other’s unspoken language. In fact, when the K9 unit is deployed on a task, the K9 Police Officer is focused on following and reading the dog, while an additional officer accompanies the team to be their eyes and ears as an attentive lookout for the duo.
When the Des-Moines Police Department in Washington State introduced a new canine into the unit, they relied on the expertise and instincts of a Specialty Canine Unit Officer and his 5 years of canine experience to do the following:
· Select the dog from a group of dogs available
· Pick up the dog when he arrived at Sea-Tac Airport
· Name the dog, “Daric” (Gaelic & Irish, meaning “strong or oak hearted”)
· Create a place in his home for the dog to live as a member of his family
· Hand feeding every meal to Daric (his whole life) in order to develop trust between the dog and handler
· Design his vehicle to be outfitted for a canine
· Teach Daric to track and capture suspects
· Trained Daric with a set of commands, created specifically for Daric to be delivered solely by Officer Boehmer
· Established veterinary and boarding care as a new client for his dog
· If Daric ever needed to see the doctor, Officer Boehmer himself made the appointment, brought him to the veterinarian, described his symptoms, accepted treatment from the veterinarian, gave the veterinarian permission, and delivered any medicine or treatments required like any dog owner.
(it wasn’t like dropping off a patrol car that needed to be fixed)
· Made all equipment purchases to get the K9 program functional
· Had to integrate a newly established K9 Unit with existing K9 Units throughout the area
Its doesn’t really sound like Officer Boehmer, walked over to a kennel inside the department and leashed up his “ready to go” tracking dog.
The duties departments expectation from Specialty K9 Handlers rely on an emotional relationship between a human being and his animal.
Canine officers often spend 24 hours a day with their dogs. Their relationship is on a totally different level. Their bond must be so strong that their dog is willing to do its job without considering the consequences. Consider that many dogs who are pets, without K9 officer responsibilities, will not jump in a swimming pool, will not come when they are called. (My own dog often gets into fights with the rubber spring doorstoppers attached to the walls in our home.) Yet these unbelievable dogs are willing to face death with a level of commitment that is reflected specifically in the relationship they share with their handler.
And while these K9’s are totally motivated to do their jobs and please their handlers, there is often no place they would rather be than riding around in the car with their head resting on their partners’ hand. It is the love for their officer that creates the trust needed when a dog is told to track and capture a suspect, and also the love for their officer that is needed when performing a bite that we as civilians seriously rely on, and lastly and most importantly, again, the love for the officer that is needed when the dog is, most importantly, commanded to release the person they have captured.
Officer Boehmer’s family is deeply worried about his mental state as he navigates through processing the incident that caused him to lose his dog Daric (who wasn’t even involved). And they are also worried about his duty to continue to work in the department with the dog he loves so much and has invested so much into. Members of the community have created a petition to help Officer Boehmer be reunited with Daric.
Is it fair to punish Daric?
Does it seem fair to use a dog, normally intended to be partnered for life, in a disciplinary process of a situation that didn’t involve him?
Imagine Daric, a highly trained tracking dog, who arrives at work each day. Daric’s expertise is the ability to detect, recognize and follow a specific scent. Possessing heightened olfactory abilities, Daric is able to detect, track and locate the source of certain odors. They say a human will smell chocolate chip cookies baking but Daric can smell the individual ingredients. Daric is motivated to work through the bond with his handler.
Remember, Police Dogs don’t work for money, they work purely for love.
The connection is trained. The Police department needs Daric to be devoted to his handler, part love and part learned. Daric’s number one motivation is to please his handler so he has a hyper-focused desire to obey his commands. Now imagine each day, Daric arrives at the department and he can smell Officer Boehmer.
He can smell him. He loves him.
Daric is no longer allowed to engage with him or play with him but Daric can smell that he is still there. It seems like that could create some frustration for a dog, who may have a desire to find his handler but not be allowed to search for him. Or if Daric becomes confused on a call because he sees Officer Boehmer, his original trainer, now putting Daric in a potentially precarious situation, making him more vulnerable as a police dog, putting his life and others at risk?
Officer Boehmer solely created all of Darics commands. This is vey important otherwise a suspect could start giving a dog orders that would interfere with and prevent them from tracking and capturing. This is specifically why trust is necessary, as important as it is that Daric captures it is even more important that he releases a suspect when commanded. A dog’s bite can be deadly. In addition, police dogs are taught to use their own digression only when their K9 Officer is in danger. This seems like a lot for a dog to learn and for Daric to re-learn.
Daric is a living being who has given himself to the police department, at what point to we take his feelings into consideration? Can’t the department work harder to keep dogs with their handlers rather making the dogs well being the priority?
Do Dogs have feelings the proof is in the science
This story has invited so many questions about the rights of dogs
France classified dogs as living beings in 2014
For hundreds of years they have been given the same legal status as a table or a chair, or for that matter a patrol car but now animals will finally be classed as living beings after a contentious bill has been approved by French MPs. It gives France's 63 million pets more protection against cruelty. Its certainly something to consider.
Daric is currently placed with a new hander, without a transition that allowed the dog to become acclimated, without the trust of the current handler helping to make the introduction or even share the customized commands with the new K9 Officer. Daric could have really benefitted from that support by the department. It will take hundreds and hundreds of hours for the new handler to retrain Daric, To gain the trust of Daric. Why not just take the offer to let the new officer get a dog and start this process with a fresh start and let Daric be with the person who has been loving him, caring for him and working with him.
The solution that was offered to the department:
Officer Boehmer has offered to pay $10,000, which would allow the department to purchase a brand new dog that would have the opportunity to create a fresh start with the canine officer that will be taking over the position.
Would the city of Des Moines be left without a canine officer?
Police Departments in King County work to assist each other, it is customary departments often rely on canine units on duty of police departments in surrounding cities.
The department now has an equipped vehicle for a K9, they are set up with the other K9 Units and are more prepared now than when Officer Boehmer entered the department.
We need to consider, that while Police Dogs are willing to serve by making the ultimate sacrifice, we hope they should never have to grieve the loss of their trusted living handler. We are instilling a bond for our selfish purposes required in the line of duty that we need to honor above everything else. When we train a dog to make his human number one, highest priority and sole purpose for doing his job, it is then our turn to return the favor by keeping him with that human in the short time they are alive on this planet.
The Des Moines Police Department Release this matter is posted at the link below: