K9 police dogs are the most highly trained canines in the world. In order for them to become a police dog, the dogs have to be experts at basic obedience. Obeying the commands of their handler without hesitation, being comfortable in public places and not being easily distracted is a must.
The National Police Dog Foundation says all the dogs are trained in patrol work, urban tracking, and detection and that the total cost of training one dog can range from $12,000 to $15,000! Detection training includes learning how to detect drugs or explosives, while patrol training involves agility and searching.
The dog is then assigned a human partner to work with once fully trained. The dog and the handler work and usually live together. The two form a strong bond and depend on each other while most police dogs retire at the age of 10. They often will live at their handlers house to live out their lives.
K-9 dog Major, from Florida’s Clearwater Police Department, retired after serving 6 years with his handler Sgt. Michael Spitaleri.
Major developed health problems and was retired. He went to live with Spitaleri and his family
Spitaleri had to make the decision to have Major put to sleep due to his health.
Spitaleri wrote a farewell letter to Major and it is heartbreaking. The letter read:
To my faithful partner,
Today has been the most difficult day of my career. I made the decision to end your pain and suffering, however, I’m hurting far more than I anticipated. I already miss you, buddy.
I remember picking you up from the airport right before we began K-9 school together. My first impression wasn’t accurate. I thought you were small and you appeared to be a bit timid at first glance. I honestly didn’t know if you had what it took to be a police dog. Nonetheless, we started K-9 school together in November of 2008. I quickly learned my initial assessment was wrong. You proved yourself to me time and time again. Your willingness to please me, your loyalty, and your fearlessness were very apparent as we progressed and graduated K-9 school in March 2009.
As a team, we had immediate success on the road. During our first week together that March, you successfully tracked and located a man who threatened his wife with a knife. Our skills and ability got better day in and day out from that point. Throughout the years, we located dozens of criminals, illegal narcotics, firearms, and other items of evidentiary value. These arrests and finds wouldn’t have been possible without you. You made me look like a superstar at times; truth be told, I was nothing more than the guy who held your leash.
Your reputation with our coworkers was highly respected. I always laughed when we would train with the SWAT team. During those training sessions, we were around some of the toughest men I have ever had the privilege of working alongside. When I would get you out of the car I would watch as these tough men would find the nearest corner of the room in an attempt to be as far away from you as possible, because they thought you were “crazy.” You weren’t crazy; you were my protector. You were their protector. You knew no limits and you would stop at nothing to make sure we made it home safely to our families. You took your job seriously.
I’ll never forget when I would try and key the radio to talk. It never failed; as soon as I got our call sign out “K4” to the dispatcher you would begin barking so loud they couldn’t hear a thing I was trying to say. I would get messages and/or requests from the dispatchers to repeat my transmissions. They knew I couldn’t stand it when you “talked” to me; however, it was something you never grew out of. We still laugh about it to this day.
When you retired in 2014 due to medical conditions, the adjustment to being a normal dog was difficult for you. You would watch me get ready and run to the door in anticipation of going to work. I know you didn’t understand the reasons I retired you, however, I did it because I loved you, buddy. I wanted to make sure your medical conditions didn’t get worse. I wanted you to live a good quality life during your retirement. You deserved that and I stand by my decision. Just like you looked out for me every single shift, it was my turn to look out for you and protect you.
Although I know you didn’t enjoy retirement like humans do, I’m proud to say you adjusted as much as you could. You became my wife’s dog. You became my children’s dog. You made sure they were protected when Daddy went to work with his new dog, Echo. You would lay by my kids’ door at night while they slept, almost as if to say “I got them, Daddy, you go to work, and they’ll be fine”. I felt at peace knowing you were home keeping them safe. Thank you for protecting them like you protected me for all of those years.
I could go on and on about you. You made me the K-9 handler that I am today. You never met a challenge that you didn’t rise to the occasion. You were a great partner and I am forever thankful for you.
Major, I love you and I will always remember our time together. Please go find the nearest police officer when you get to heaven and tell them you are a police dog and you are reporting for duty. Until I see you again………….
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