As we finish up this issue another K9 officer has been lost to heat exhaustion. Wix, a Belgian Malinos, and his partner were pulling security detail at a premier golf competition at Whistling Straits in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Wix’s handler made sure he had plenty of food and water, and that the vehicle A/C was working. Unfortunately at some point during those 47 minutes the A/C had stopped—and the car’s heat alarm did not activate.
Stories like this are really tough. No one wants to see it happen. You plan. You prepare. Yet despite the many high-intensity and dangerous job K9s perform—sniffing out hazardous materials and tracking armed offenders—a hot car is still the most dangerous place for dogs. This month’s cover story walks through how quickly it can happen (even with best laid plans) and some ways to better protect these valued partners. After all, police K9s are more than skilled trackers; they are members of a family and trusted friends. Here’s a touching anecdote told to me by retired California K9 handler Sgt. Steve Guggiana, who was interviewed for this month’s feature. He says one of the most rewarding aspects of his career occurred while he responded to a 911 call where a mother disclosed her 4-year-old daughter had been molested by a family friend:
“After we detained the suspect and waited for investigators to arrive…I made small talk with the victim and told her I had a doggy in my car. I opened the back door and she lit up with a smile and asked to pet him. She pet the dog. She got her face licked. She hugged my dog and sat next to him in the doorway of the car. She laughed and talked to him for ten minutes. Then she unfortunately had to go back to being the victim for the investigation.
“For those glorious ten minutes or so, that little girl forgot all about a terrible thing that had happened to her just minutes before. My dog served as a real life teddy bear, in place of the stuffed one we all carry in the trunk these days. There were no high fives from colleagues, no letter of commendation, not even a watch commander log entry. But there was my most rewarding deployment.
“As a K9 unit, administrator, or member of the public…how do you put a cost analysis on that?”
Let’s do all we can to serve and protect our furry partners, so they can carry on in their mission to serve and protect.