Street Smart

The best partner

 

Courtesy Photo

Thor lived to be eight years old.

I had many jobs in my career, but my favorite was being a K9 handler. I worked three different K9 Units and handled/trained dozens of dogs. This week marks the 25th anniversary of my first K9 partner's passing. It was a tough day for me! The relationship between a handler and K9 partner is impossible to describe. The following is the letter I wrote for our department's newsletter that same day. Most of the readers knew Thor and I.

I've been extremely fortunate in my police career. I have been blessed with the best regularly assigned partners a police officer could ask for. Today the best of them died. Jim, Chris, Jim J., Mark, Gary, Larry and Skip...I 'm sure you'll understand and not be offended. My police dog, my PARTNER died today!

I was assigned to the Metropolitan Division K9 Unit in 1989. When I was first assigned, I had to wait a few weeks for dogs from Germany to get here. I then went with Joe Vita and Mark Mooring to a kennel in Riverside to see what they had. At the time, all I knew about dogs was which end ate and which end didn't. Joe tested several dogs and liked three of them. I was then told I could pick any one of the three. I wish I knew what it was about this one particular dog that caught my eye. He wasn't much to look at. He had long, matted hair and was way too skinny. He was real young at 16 months old and didn't seem as vicious as I thought a police dog was supposed to be (at the time I had a lot to learn about police dogs). However, this dog had a look in his eyes that I could not ignore. His eyes showed confidence, intelligence, kindness, and understanding. He seemed to enjoy being with me too! Despite all of the things I perceived to be negatives, I chose this dog and named him Thor. When I first learned that I had been selected to the K9 Unit, I knew that I would be getting a new dog and would get to select a name. I chose the name Thor from Greek mythology. I had read that Thor was the God of Thunder and had sworn to come down to Earth to "crush evildoers." The name seemed perfect to me. Thor ultimately lived up to that name! I never once regretted my choice.


Sanders County Ledger canvas prints

Thor and I went into training together and our education began. Jay Moberly trained us, along with the help of all the handlers in the unit. Jay had his hands full. He had two K9 teams to train. Thor and I, along with Doug Senegal and his new partner Dragnet. Training went surprisingly well for us. Thor was field certified for limited searches after only about 11 weeks of training and completely certified for armed suspect searches about four weeks later. Looking back, I shouldn't be surprised that training went so well. Given a dog like Thor and a trainer like Jay, quick success was guaranteed. Thor was looking a lot better too! He had filled out to about 90 pounds and his coat was beautiful. So much for the straggly dog I had selected! There was a period of time when Jay thought that Thor might wash out of the program. Jay recognized Thor's gentleness and felt he may not respond properly when the situation warranted aggression. Jay adapted his training techniques to Thor's personality and one training scenario with an under-garment sleeve convinced Jay that Thor would be fine. Thor never let Jay down either.


Sanders County Ledger Garage Sale Special

Thor proved to be an exceptional police dog! He definitely was the shining star in our car. I often referred to myself as Thor's driver and I wasn't completely joking. I often felt like Thor just allowed me to tag along because I was having so much fun and he felt sorry for me! I believe that Thor had a truly unique personality for a police dog. For instance, unlike many other dogs in the unit, Thor would sleep the entire time he was in the police car. When we would get to a perimeter or building search, Thor would get out of the car, stretch, yawn, scratch and then go to work. When I say work, I mean WORK! Thor's enthusiasm for searching was phenomenal and he was good at it. When the search was complete, Thor would jump back into the car, lay down and be asleep within seconds. I remember one particular search where Thor and a robbery suspect got into a fist fight in 77th Division. The fight was long, but Thor ultimately won. I put Thor in his police car after the fight, then went to meet with the incident commander regarding the incident. I returned to the police car about five minutes later and found Thor on his back with his legs propped against the divider, sound asleep. He didn't even move when I got in the car and drove away. In his career, Thor was responsible for the capture of 180 felony suspects. He worked hard when he was awake!


Most people that met Thor had trouble believing he was a police dog. He was so kind and gentle the he didn't fit people's image of what a police dog should be (it should be noted here and now that police dogs are kind and gentle. They, like us, are trained to respond a certain way to certain situations). As members of the K9 Unit, one of our functions was to perform demonstrations for various community functions. Thor was always a hit, especially with the kids. Thor's gentle and loving nature made people want to approach and pet him. Thor loved the attention too. As I write this, I am sitting in a room filled with trophies and awards Thor won. Thor always made me look good both at work and in competition. The fact is, anybody would have looked like a great handler with Thor for a partner!

I could continue for hours describing my relationship with this wonderful dog, but my real reason for writing this is to say goodbye. I just don't know how! How do you say goodbye to a partner who devoted his whole life to you? A partner who constantly exposed himself to danger to protect you? A partner whose greatest joy was just being with you? My words just don't seem like enough.

Thor, I was honored to be your partner! I love you buddy, and I miss you!

Blaine Blackstone is a retired Los Angeles Police Sergeant who enjoys the simpler life in Thompson Falls. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

 

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