Saving Grace of Cops and Canines

Saving Grace of Cops and Canines

By Stephen Owsinski

Although I recently wrote about the so-called “silent majority” standing in solidarity with American law enforcement despite the pesky haranguing of the anti-cop crowd, the reference is humans and where they stand on law and order in present-day society.

But there is another demographic, a large one, which is a different breed of loyalty and requires salvation from police officers just as much as humans: Canines.

As an animal lover and owner of a canine buddy, I study animal-related nuggets on the daily, some awesome (cops adopting abandoned dogs and police canines nabbing bad guys) and some despicable (mean-spirited treatment of four-legged friends, some rescued by law enforcement and animal control officers).

Compliments of the Tybee Island Police Department, our cover photo above is an illustration of one of their patrol officers treating a local animal shelter dog to a lickety-split ice cream cone while out on patrol in a unique program of theirs called “K9 for a Day.”

From what I gather, this police agency’s cops sign out a dog a day from the Humane Society of Greater Savannah and patrol the city as a layer of their community policing/relations initiatives, stopping at parks, schools, nursing homes, downtown locales, and other venues to expose the dogs to fun-loving citizens talking it up with law enforcement officers.

(“Nova” out and about downtown, pandering for petting. Photo courtesy of the Tybee Island Police Department.)

The several-fold objective is to treat the dogs to a day away from animal shelter life, increase community interactions between police/citizens, and maybe just maybe come across suitors for these adoptable dogs.

Pretty cool concept, huh? Here is another of the police department’s community relations endeavors involving taking an animal shelter canine out for a day of duty and potential rehoming, depicting two TIPD cops and “Farrah” during a downtown jaunt, resulting in at least three smiles:

(Photo courtesy of the Tybee Island Police Department.)

I recently came across one of the most heartwarming and mutually enriching stories for both law enforcement officers and the hanging-by-a-thread canines they rescue while on patrol duties, perfectly painting a mutually gratifying experience brought to us by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office in Florida.

(Photo courtesy of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.)

Depicted above is Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno doggedly doting on a canine they named “Chance,” a name notably picked due to the conditions in which deputies found him, indicating a second chance was needed.

Deputies did more than provide this wondrous dog with another chance, they took it further and registered him among their official ranks, outfitted him with law enforcement insignia, and officiated his legacy in the annals of sworn law enforcement canine staff.

Here’s Deputy Chance’s story and the LEOs who not only saved him but made him part of the crime-fighting family:

“Chance was a victim of animal abuse in Lee County, Florida. The Lee County Sheriff’s Office investigated the animal cruelty case and used forensics evidence to identify a suspect and subsequently get a conviction. Chance was adopted by Lieutenant Castellon and deputized by Sheriff Carmine Marceno. Deputy Chance is the spokes-dog for the Public Affairs Unit at the Sheriff’s Office. Deputy Chance was also titled as the Good Will Ambassador by County Commissioners. He regularly visits schools, children’s hospitals, and community events. He promotes goodwill and has become an advocate against animal cruelty and helps promote adoption of shelter pets. Deputy Chance is the face of the Deputy Dogs Pets on Patrol program in Lee County, Florida.”

So loved is Deputy Chance that the Lee County Sheriff’s Office decided to nominate him for the “American Humane Hero Dogs Award.” (I took a Chance at voting.)

An online dog rescue in my region posted while I was writing this article, explaining the epidemic relative to our subject matter and the cops who do their darndest to offer salvation: “There’s just not enough good people to take them all, and it’s the dogs that pay the ultimate price for humans’ irresponsibility and selfishness!”

As always, thank goodness for our cops out there scooping up these animals and offering them an opportunity, just like Deputy Chance. Dogs are phenoms we cannot afford to overlook; police dogs exemplify this fact.

On that note, from Ohio Going Blue we have the following thread which grew enormously to no one’s surprise:

“We truly don’t deserve dogs. I say this because I’ve lost track as to how many I’ve had to help remove from homes due to neglect and abuse. And you know what? Despite what they’ve been through, they have been some of the most loving dogs I’ve ever come across. Can I just be a billionaire, retire and move to an island with all the dogs to give them a better life? I don’t think that’s asking too much.”

One of the facets I enjoyed as a midnight shift cop for much of my law enforcement career was the relative opportunity to come upon strays (more exposed at night with less traffic, more potential to forage for scraps), gain rapport, feed them, and kennel each one in our informal dog pound at police HQ.

Several of our department’s personnel were also the agency’s animal control faction, equipped with a virtual Rolodex of resources regarding gratis vet care, no-kill shelters, rehabilitation facilities, and welfare-based shots leading to adoption realms.

(Animal control officer provides oxygen to Husky saved from housefire. Photo courtesy of Virginia Beach Animal Control.)

Many law enforcement agencies either have a contingent of animal control officers (usually uniformed non-sworn personnel) or working agreements with public/private animal shelters and animal rescue entities.

Indeed, although lifesaving measures by cops ordinarily refers to humans…animals are always in the police playbook.

Often enough, especially during midnight shift hours, citizens whose hearts are open to animal rescue typically bring “found dogs” to the PD, from which civilian police staff would start ringing numbers on the contact list (animal welfare organizations). Our agency efforts were to call animal rescue facilities on a rotational basis because of the chronic nature of mass overpopulation of unwanted dogs leading to overcrowding if only one entity were relied upon too often.

Frankly, it was always a bittersweet moment when I had a found dog in the rear seat of my cruiser versus a nasty criminal thirsting for hostile engagement.

Just as animals sense human goodness, so too do our children (at least those whose parents know better than to scare kids by using cops as the tool to discipline).

(Image courtesy of Idaho Falls PD.)

In that context, kudos to kids whose big hearts and enterprising lemonade stands amounted to profits intended solely for purchase of ballistic vests for police canines in service to their respective communities. Animals’ super sensory capacities to emotionally process signals from those who they derive safety and comfort lends well to children and their human similarities, in our case cops who, in the course of duty, come across scared, neglected, and abused dogs deserving of embrace and love.

Some communities band together and aggregate the requisite funds to buy, train and maintain police canines. The Franklin County, Florida sheriff’s office is one such example when it received donations to purchase a police canine, a resource they desperately needed.

Cops adopt puppies on the regular, kept as companions at their own homes, thus relieving enormous amounts of pent-up stress due to the job.

Therapy dogs have become a remarkable mainstay at police agencies, rightly so—the salvation goes both ways.

A police officer friend of mine just picked up his dog after a week-long “dog-sitting” favor for which he wanted to compensate. He knew I would deflect proceeds…and I reminded him that his and his dog’s friendship is the best form of even Stephen.

As Ohio Going Blue referenced earlier, it boggles the mind that such loving creatures provide so much to humanity yet some among us resort to evil-natured abuse of animals despite the unmistakable face of unconditional love and unshakable companionship dogs (and other creatures) gift us with.

The philosophy that the quality and integrity and robust nature of humans can be measured by how they treat animals of any kind speaks volumes of our cops, especially since they are out and about in 24/7/365 rhythm and best positioned to employ rescue efforts regarding skittish and scared furry beings.

These things are surely accounted for when law enforcement officers are considered for assignments in canine units. That is not to imply that some cops are ill-suited; to the contrary.

Ultimately what bolsters a candidate in the police canine selection process are many variables to include tenure (seniority), prior military experience working with dogs, environmental provisions (house versus an apartment, since the police canines reside with cops when off-duty), familial constructs (spouse or children allergic to animal elements), to name just a few dynamics factoring into police canine handler assignments.

Some of the most gratified LEOs I ever worked with are canine cops…and their police dogs are largely the reason. Thankfully, that is a reciprocal contract from which these formal human/animal teams provide for each other while catering to communities they serve. Conversely, off duty exploits are robust and stress-relieving.

Newburyport, Massachusetts police Officer Megan Tierney’s dog “Dude” literally gave her signals that there was something amiss in her body. Remember the credo that when one human sense is defunct the remaining ones intensify? Dude is a blind dog, yet his super-sniffer detected a killer within Officer Tierney—she was diagnosed with cancer. Did you know dogs can detect cancer cells?

(“Farrah” out for a day outing in a police program called K9 for a Day. Photo courtesy of the Tybee Island Police Department.)

The canines out having daily fun with Tybee Island cops are in the hearts and minds of those very same cops…just a matter of time before they are officially adopted from the Humane Society for Greater Savannah, ultimately making a dog’s day out a forever family home.

In formal settings, though, law enforcement agencies employing canine units have massive successes with these animals on the job, and for those police departments without a deployable canine cop, mutual aid agreements (MAGs) or Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) exist. These inter-agency contracts are essentially handshakes on paper, declarations that resources of one agency will be used for other agencies without such aids to succeed law enforcement objectives—a lend-out.

Speaking of meeting police objectives and mutual aid among our nation’s law enforcement community, some states have been elevating the importance of our police canines by legislating acts pertaining to emergency transports toward medical treatments stemming from duty-related injuries sustained by our four-legged partners.

On June 18, 2021, Florida was the latest state to enact such a legislative fostering toward our police dogs, the full context of which is in SB. 388, otherwise known as the Injured Police Canines Act.

After signing it into law, Governor Ron DeSantis said of the police canines act: “Law enforcement K-9s are often the first to put their lives on the line by providing critical life-saving services. Today, I’m signing legislation to ensure they quickly receive the care they need when injured in the line of duty.”

Pretty astonishing and heartwarming substories in that brief video, especially testifying directly to our topic today!

Commenting on Governor DeSantis’s signature embracing ultra-care for police service dogs, Mrs. Wright noted, “As the wife of a K9 deputy, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. My husband and I would be devastated if something happened to our K9 family member and help on scene was not able to be offered. K9 deputies and officers carry medical kits in the event a tragedy happens, but it’s not the same as having trained paramedics and fully stocked medical supplies on hand. Bless you!”

In closing, we refer in true McGruff the Crime Dog fashion, to a good public service announcement involving our police partners and our furry friends at the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, portraying police canines also armed with the wherewithal to luck up the shop at night:

(Photo courtesy of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.)

Win-win-win…in a jurisdiction near you.  

As one who dedicated her life to the animal realm, Jane Goodall gave us this goody: “You can not share your life with a dog or a cat and not know perfectly well that animals have personalities and minds and feelings.” Indeed, police officers know this, come across many animals, and exude quality of character when they bond and seek shelter for each one.

As Proverbs 12:10 informs, how we treat animals is a reflection of our character.