Photo courtesy of Glyn Dewis

Photo courtesy of Glyn Dewis

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Photo courtesy of Pexels

The K-9 tryouts

The crucial tests handlers and dogs must pass to get a spot on Calgary Police Service's canine unit and what might disqualify them from service

Dogs are like people; no one is like the other. Just as how some people are better suited to become police officers, some dogs are more fit to become police dogs. But unlike humans, dogs can't be interviewed, which is why Calgary Police Service's (CPS) canine unit has a more-or-less foolproof system to select potential four-legged candidates.

"Primarily what we're looking for is a dog with a really stable temperament. It has to have the ability to track, has to have a stable ... mentality, can function under pressure, under stress [and] easily reacts to commands,” says Ross Serbin, former handler turned sergeant-in-charge of the canine unit. “They also have to be physically fit because, in essence, these dogs are athletes.”

Dogs that dream of becoming a police officer need to undergo a rigorous selection process. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Dogs that dream of becoming a police officer need to undergo a rigorous selection process. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Officer Jens Lind and his patrol dog answering the call to action. Photo courtesy of Jens Lind, originally published in the Calgary Sun

Officer Jens Lind and his patrol dog answering the call to action. Photo courtesy of Jens Lind, originally published in the Calgary Sun

Photo courtesy of Jozef Fehér, Pexels

Photo courtesy of Jozef Fehér, Pexels

Working the tail off

German shepherds, Dutch shepherds and Belgian Malinois (Mals) are the most common dogs used by CPS for patrol work. While all three breeds shared the hallmarks of tenacity and loyalty, many in the canine unit seem to prefer German shepherds.

Chris Large, former dog handler for CPS, remarks, “They’re so protective. There’s a lot of things that you can’t explain — how the dog knows that and how the dog does that.”

“I’m still a German shepherd fan. You know, we had a saying back then, that there [are] only two kinds of dogs in the world — German shepherds and dogs that wished they were German shepherds,” he laughs.

German shepherds remain one of the most popular breeds for the Calgary Police Service. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

German shepherds remain one of the most popular breeds for the Calgary Police Service. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

The black-and-tan beauties were built to be the ideal working dog, with intelligence, stamina and a drive to learn quickly and work harder. But more importantly, German shepherds have a coat that can withstand training during Calgary’s unpredictable seasons.

“You can only do very, very short training sessions because [the dogs] become exhausted and you have to be very careful about them overheating,” Serbin says, noting that Mals often fall victim to getting hot under the collar, literally.

He adds that CPS also employs the abilities of other breeds including Bloodhounds, Beagles, Rottweilers and Labrador retrievers.

Jens Lind, former sergeant of the canine unit and now CPS instructor, has stared down some of the city’s most notorious criminals but one look from his cadaver dog, Sully, is all he needs to melt his heart. Photo courtesy of Jens Lind

Jens Lind, former sergeant of the canine unit and now CPS instructor, has stared down some of the city’s most notorious criminals but one look from his cadaver dog, Sully, is all he needs to melt his heart. Photo courtesy of Jens Lind

“The street dog would train in apprehension. For detector dogs, you’re training [the dog] to find specific scents — explosives, narcotics and drugs. For cadavers, it’s human flesh. So, you’re using the same ability of the dog, just in a different manner. The training is different ... but you’re still primarily using the nose.”

Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Pawsitive Recruits

When looking for the perfect police dog candidates, Large says courage and curiosity are the most crucial factors.

“They’re tested [around] a year old and they’re brought into … our training grounds. We have a number of surprises for them. Handlers will jump out with an umbrella in front of the dog and open it up really violently. We want to see the dog’s reaction. If the dog steps back a little bit, it’s fine, but even better if he barks. What we don’t want to see is him running off,” Large recalls.

Running dog

Dogs like the one pictured above undergo numerous trial tests by CPS to assess their abilities as a working dog. Photo courtesy of Jozef Fehér, Pexels

Dogs like the one pictured above undergo numerous trial tests by CPS to assess their abilities as a working dog. Photo courtesy of Jozef Fehér, Pexels

“We have a person come out and grab the... trainers of the dogs. We want to see the dog’s reaction because there should be an actual, protective aspect to it. We have to have a dog who’s protective. We want a dog with a strong ... drive, that chase instinct.”

He explains that handlers would also walk their dogs across a 10- by-10-foot piece of plastic and assess the dogs based on whether or not they hesitated; dogs that were intimidated scored lower.

Ross Serbin poses with police dog Zando and his pup. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Ross Serbin poses with police dog Zando and his pup. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Serbin says much of the selection process is merely a formality — well-mannered interviews for the people, testing bravery for the dogs. However, handlers and dogs that prove to be suitable for the canine tryouts might not end up making the CPS team.

“Sometimes it's really difficult to tell my handler that [I'm] going to ‘wash’ his dog because they become pretty attached to that dog,” Serbin says.

“You have that person that still has that hope and you finally have to say, ‘We're investing a lot of time and money into this. Unfortunately, your dog is not going to cut it.’ For [the handler], that means you're going to be in training longer.”

He knows this disappointment firsthand. Serbin’s first German shepherd, Rico, may have been fit for street duty on paper but he lacked the nerves to serve in real life.

“He was basically under so much stress that it would turn his insides to water and he had terrible problems with diarrhea. We eventually retired him for medical reasons. Over time, we realized he couldn't handle it,” Serbin says.

Serbin and Chico

After retiring his dog Rico, Ross Serbin met his first dog in service, Chico, and bonded over hours on a training field. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

After retiring his dog Rico, Ross Serbin met his first dog in service, Chico, and bonded over hours on a training field. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

It wasn’t the first time Serbin hit a bump with his dog. “When I was in there [canine unit], there was four of us [handlers] so … four dogs. Out of those four dogs, my initial one Chico was the only one that didn’t work out. The other three handlers’ dogs worked.”

Selecting dogs isn't the only process that's difficult for the canine unit. Serbin says sourcing dogs also remain an ambiguous process for many police agencies because while the puppy’s parents may possess all the qualities of a working dog, there are no guarantees that the puppy will inherit the same characteristics.

Calgary Police Service had a puppy breeding program that was cancelled in the early 2000s after financial difficulties. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Calgary Police Service had a puppy breeding program that was cancelled in the early 2000s after financial difficulties. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

“It would be very rare to find a dog that fits what we’re looking for [so] we brought in a lot of German shepherds from the Czech Republic, Hungary [and] Eastern European countries because their German shepherds were primarily bred for police work,” Serbin says, adding that breeding programs previously existed in CPS but were rendered moot due to financial shortcomings.

A unit photo of the 1995 K-9 unit. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

A unit photo of the 1995 K-9 unit. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

The dog lovers' unit

The unit, established in 1960, is divided into multiple divisions, each requiring a unique set of skills from both the handler as well as the dog. Despite the number of departments, Serbin says there’s room for crossovers.

Becoming a handler for one of these dogs is also no easy task. The police academy asks that its recruits be proficient in everything from understanding and memorizing the criminal code to knowing how to recognize suspicious activities during patrol duty.

Handlers must fulfil the requirements of serving on the force for a minimum of four years and hold the rank of a first-class constable to be considered for application. On top of those criteria and all the skills necessary for the job, CPS handlers also have another pre-requisite to meet: must love dogs.

Add the gripping dangers of the job to loving a muscular dog with teeth so sharp they could kill in a single bite, and it’s obvious that handlers can’t be faint of heart.

“The toughest [part of the job] is telling people they don't have what it takes to become a canine handler,” Serbin says, commenting that while unaware, many people are afraid of the black-saddled dogs.

Once selected, the handlers and dogs were brought back to CPS’ canine unit where they would take their first steps in becoming a badged officer; their first step towards a life of work, danger and death.

An officer on patrol with his dog in 1992. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

An officer on patrol with his dog in 1992. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Typically, German shepherds have 42 teeth and can clamp down with a bite force of approximately 238 pounds, roughly a quarter of the strength a tiger or a lion can exert. Photo courtesy of Adam Kontor, Pexels

Typically, German shepherds have 42 teeth and can clamp down with a bite force of approximately 238 pounds, roughly a quarter of the strength a tiger or a lion can exert. Photo courtesy of Adam Kontor, Pexels

Photo courtesy of NicePik

Photo courtesy of NicePik

Play for pay

Lessons in trust, loyalty and courage from the handlers and dogs that make up Calgary Police Service’s canine unit


Chris Large was a latecomer to Calgary Police Service’s (CPS) canine unit, having joined the force at 30 as the oldest recruit in his class. He didn't become a rookie dog handler until he was 36 and it wasn't until after his time with the canine unit that he became a CPS sergeant.

Joining the canine unit is an arduous process with a number of pre-requisites officers need to rack up over a short career. Applicants also had to ride out scrutinizing interviews where they took turns listing all their relevant achievements faster than the person before them.

Chris Large with his canine partner, Magnum, during their years of service. Photo courtesy of Chris Large, Calgary Police Service

Chris Large with his canine partner, Magnum, during their years of service. Photo courtesy of Chris Large, Calgary Police Service

“The canine unit is one of the most popular specialty units in the police service so it attracts a high number of people that want to get in. When I applied … there [were] probably 30 to 35 applicants for two positions,” Large says.

After his interview, Large had been taped to his phone, eagerly waiting to hear back. He was sprawled out on his home sofa during a day off when a call came through just two days later: Congratulations. He was in.

The days that followed were a blur. Large was given a brief rundown of the basics and quickly introduced to his canine partner, Magnum, a black-and-tan German shepherd dog that had the swagger of a fearless fighter. The two bonded almost immediately and were scheduled to begin training as soon as possible.

Photo courtesy of HDWallpapers

Photo courtesy of NicePik

Photo courtesy of HDWallpapers

Photo courtesy of NicePik

Paw enforcement

CPS is headquartered at the Westwinds station wedged between the Castleridge and Whitehorn communities but the canine unit uses several sites around the city for training prospective dogs.

The main training site at the time was McCall Lake Golf Course, Calgary's spacious oasis where Large and Magnum learned how to read and trust each other.

“There [are] two aspects to the training. There’s training the dog, then there’s training the handler,” says Ross Serbin, a former CPS dog handler.

“Generally speaking, it takes about four or five months to get them ready to go out on the street. The training never really ends, it just means they can get certified and work the streets.”

Serbin says the standard training day started shortly after dusk, usually beginning around 7 p.m.

“It's a 10-hour shift so we would go to five in the morning. We were teaching people to do building searches and businesses would give us access to their buildings. At night, there's nobody there … [there wasn’t] much interference,” Serbin says, noting that cooler temperatures also made working easier on the dogs.

The regiment was divided into four major parts: searching, apprehension, obedience and tracking.

Obedience training was the basis for success in the canine unit. It included an exercise where the handler had to leave the sight of the dog for 20 minutes and in that time, the dog could not move an inch.

Marty Fulkerth, a former CPS handler remembers the pain of working the “long down” exercise with his black-masked German shepherd named Sadik, nicknamed Max by the force and known dearly to Fulkerth as Maxie.

“There [are] all these distractions … and if he moves, well then, you fail. Max, on that long down, he used to get up … creep just a little bit and I knew I’d have to do it all over again,” Fulkerth chuckles but he adds that with just a few more practices, Max became a master.

“As you get more and more bonded with your dog, he ... responds to your body language. I didn't have to tell him to stay, I just reacted to a situation and he reacted to my body language.”

Logo of CPS

Since the dawn of time, CPS has worked to preserve the quality of life in Calgary. While the insignia has changed over the years, the mission to protect the people of the city hasn't wavered. Photo courtesy of Calgary Police Service

Since the dawn of time, CPS has worked to preserve the quality of life in Calgary. While the insignia has changed over the years, the mission to protect the people of the city hasn't wavered. Photo courtesy of Calgary Police Service

CPS training session

Police officers take turns boarding helicopters with their dogs as part of a training exercise at night. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Police officers take turns boarding helicopters with their dogs as part of a training exercise at night. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Dog sitting for obedience training

Learning to sit on command is a simple yet critical maneuver for canine partners to master. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Learning to sit on command is a simple yet critical maneuver for canine partners to master. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Fulkerth and Sadik receives blue ribbon

P.S.D. Sadik's (Max) identification card from his days in the canine unit. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

P.S.D. Sadik's (Max) identification card from his days in the canine unit. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Fulkerth bonding with Sadik

Marty Fulkerth and his furry partner Sadik (Max) bonding in the summer breeze. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Marty Fulkerth and his furry partner Sadik (Max) bonding in the summer breeze. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

A show poster for Thurston the Great Magician

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay

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The bridge to bitework

Police dog trainers enlisted the help of officers looking to become handlers, themselves. These individuals, known as ‘quarries,’ would often dress up in Michelin Man-looking suits and carry out the unwanted jobs such as getting bit during training with a sombre face of regret.

During apprehension training, every CPS dog handler and quarry would be on deck, with the latter playing the part of an escaped criminal, eventually shaking a dog’s locked teeth off their protected arm.

“Sometimes [dogs] don't bite, they just knock the guy down. My dog was famous for jumping very high and hitting … the [shoulders],” says Large with a slight grin.

“A 90-pound German shepherd going full speed — you’re not going to stay on your feet if he hits you in the back.”

Chris Large details the efficiency of police dogs. Photos courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Chris Large details the efficiency of police dogs. Photos courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

In the tracking exercises, the dogs would dip their heads close to the ground to taste the scents and lead handlers down flat tracks, past growing trees and bushes.

The dogs would be professional enough to ignore the temptation of putting abandoned candy wrappers in their mouths but also smart enough to recognize key pieces of evidence.

“If [the dog] found something, he'd lie down and it would be between his two paws,” Fulkerth says.

While searching, Fulkerth notes that the dogs only had one mission: finding something at the end of the track. “I don’t think the dogs are ever wrong. The person that might be wrong ... would be the handler. The handler misses the sign or misses the indication from the dog.”

A quarry wrapped in protective gear take on a fierce, 90-pound German shepherd in 1986. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

A quarry wrapped in protective gear take on a fierce, 90-pound German shepherd in 1986. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

A police officer and his canine clearing the Kinsmen arena in Edmonton 1979. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

A police officer and his canine clearing the Kinsmen arena in Edmonton 1979. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Produced by Sam Nar, Antoine Fecteau and Brian Cortez

Produced by Sam Nar, Antoine Fecteau and Brian Cortez

Primal Forces

Serbin says identifying dogs with the specific characteristics for police work might be difficult but testing procedures such as Schutzhund training can help determine appropriate traits.

Schutzhund training is divided into three levels: SchH 1, SchH 2, SchH 3 — each is a progression based on skills built in the previous level.

Azelle

Isabella Oxsengendler, president and lead coordinator of the K-9 Force Working Dog Club, shows off her purebred German shepherd, Azelle. Photo courtesy of Sam Nar

Isabella Oxsengendler, president and lead coordinator of the K-9 Force Working Dog Club, shows off her purebred German shepherd, Azelle. Photo courtesy of Sam Nar

"Schutzhund was actually developed in Germany to test dogs to see if they had the propensity for police work. If a dog has a SchH 1, it basically means that it has basic training in tracking which makes life easier for us — they already have the foundation,” Serbin explains.

“It's not a guarantee … but it does show that the dog's likelihood to be successful in a police dog program is probably higher than it would be if the dog … had no prior training.”

Despite the helper's fierce actions, every effort in Schutzhund is dedicated to ensure the safety of the dog as well as the people around them. Produced by Sam Nar and Isabelle Bennett

Serbin adds that the training dogs receive in Schutzhund are fairly similar to the training by CPS.

“The mantra throughout training is ‘trust your dog.’ We have the dog [because] they have a capability that we don’t — their ability to use their nose and their enhanced scent abilities,” he says.

“You need to know when the dog is showing you its found the scent that it’s looking for and it’s your job to help that dog make the actual find ... so you’re actually working as a team.”

Chris Large explains the level of trust officers have with their canine counterparts. Photos courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Chris Large explains the level of trust officers have with their canine counterparts. Photos courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

It’s a lesson that Large and Magnum are all too familiar with. Much like Large and Magnum, other dogs and police officers entered the canine unit with a vague sense of the work involved but no amount of training could ever fully prepare them for the hardship of the job.

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Photo courtesy of WallpapersGood

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Photo courtesy of WallpapersGood

Upholding the paw

Retired police officers in the canine unit share highlights of their service years

There are countless stories of heroism and selflessness carried out by police officers and their partners during their time with Calgary Police Service’s (CPS) canine unit. Hear some of the most memorable recollections from daring officers and their courageous canine counterparts.

TAILS OF HEROISM:

Sgt. Marty Fulkerth will never forget the rush of his first case in the canine unit, in which, he and his partner, Sadik (Max), chased down and apprehended a man that escaped Forest Lawn on assault charges.

Music credit: David Hyde - "Acoustically Driven Instrumental" https://soundcloud.com/davidhydemusic

Music credit: David Hyde - "Acoustically Driven Instrumental" https://soundcloud.com/davidhydemusic

Sgt. Jens Lind tells the story of the time he and his dog, Haro tracked down a suspicious character with the help of young bystanders.

Music Credit: Houses of Heaven - "Descent" www.youtube.com/channel/UCy-unM_4IUeSvmyaLrFPyWg/about

Music Credit: Houses of Heaven - "Descent" www.youtube.com/channel/UCy-unM_4IUeSvmyaLrFPyWg/about

Listen to Sgt. Chris Large relive one of his most terrifying moments in service when his dog, Magnum, was choked out during a standoff but still managed to wake up in time to arrest the bad guy.

Music Credit: Broken Piano - "The Way" www.youtube.com/channel/UCfui_c0SMjEo_ku1kp5hG5w/about

Music Credit: Broken Piano - "The Way" www.youtube.com/channel/UCfui_c0SMjEo_ku1kp5hG5w/about

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Photo courtesy of Sam Nar

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Photo courtesy of Sam Nar

Thank you fur your service

Reflecting on 19 years of service, retired dog handler Cst. Perrault says his partners on patrol became his friends for life


At a time when young adults his age were frantically looking for their next move, 22-year-old Doug Perrault already had his figured out: to serve and protect as an officer for the Calgary Police Service.

Once in the force, he gravitated towards the canine unit and spent many days attending to dispatch calls requiring dogs. About seven years after joining, Perrault signed on as a dog handler.

Marty Fulkerth remembers his dog, Sadik's (Max) passion for work. Photos courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Marty Fulkerth remembers his dog, Sadik's (Max) passion for work. Photos courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

“I've always loved dogs. I guess I'm a dog person and [the dogs] seem to know that. Dogs are very good judges of personality,” Perrault says, noting that initially, he had been inspired to become an officer through T.V. shows like Cagney and Lacey.

The dogs he’d meet in the canine unit were trained to protect people from harm by risking their own lives — a daily routine they endured for an average of eight years in their 12-year lifespan.

The long paw of the law

When he arrived at the canine unit, he was introduced to a dog that would become his partner for the next five years, Enzo.

Enzo was a looker. Black and tan with a darkened muzzle, he was the definition of a standard German shepherd dog. His legs stretched into an intimidating ‘nobody messes with me’ stance.

Perrault and Enzo flew through the training course, forming a bond that reflected all the best qualities of a partnership: loyalty, heroism and bravery. “[Enzo was a] crossover of everything. He was social but he was aggressive.”

“I hadn’t ever worked with police dogs up to that point so he was my first dog and I enjoyed what he brought to the equation. I was learning from him … and I was showing him. We were both learning the process.”

Enzo’s early retirement due to a lack of available handlers for younger dogs in the unit turned Perrault’s service into the canine unit’s anomaly.

Doug Perrault details the importance of dogs in police work. Photos courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Doug Perrault details the importance of dogs in police work. Photos courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

“At that time, we had tenure within the unit and generally, it was accepted that once you worked one dog, you left the unit,” he explains.

“I didn’t want to go for promotion. I didn’t want to go to any other units. I didn’t want to go back on the street in patrol.”

After his service with Enzo, Perrault was given the opportunity to take on a second dog named Carlo, a Saskatchewan-born Belgian Malinois-Dutch shepherd cross, from a handler that was leaving the unit.

“He was a big dog, about 110 pounds and he was all business; muscle from one end to the other. All he wanted to do was work. He would tolerate people petting him but he wasn’t a social, friendly dog of any sort.”

Carlo and Enzo ended up finding a home with Perrault. The two dogs also shared the same kennel on days away from home.

Doug Perrault and Enzo receive recognition for their service with the police force. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Doug Perrault and Enzo receive recognition for their service with the police force. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Doug Perrault and his first dog Enzo share a moment together on the training field. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Doug Perrault and his first dog Enzo share a moment together on the training field. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Doug Perrault exploring a track with Enzo. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Doug Perrault exploring a track with Enzo. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Human officers aren't the only ones that bond over the hardships of training. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Human officers aren't the only ones that bond over the hardships of training. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Run to ground

Over the course of his career as a dog handler, Perrault would oversee partnership with two other dogs including Bosco, a sable-coloured, Dutch-born German shepherd and his final partner, Rex who mirrored his first dog in appearance.

“They’re like people. They all have their individual personalities,” he says, joking, “When you have kids, you never want to pick a favourite but you do. It’s sort of the same with the dogs.”  

Perrault says he enjoyed working with Rex the most and Bosco earned the title of the least favourite kid, having been trained previously in Schutzhund work which primarily focused on finishing a ‘track.’

“He was very indoctrinated into doing everything the way Schutzhund was oriented, which doesn't work for police work,” he says.

J.C. St. Louis offers insight into the complexities of canine behaviour. Photos courtesy of Pexels and Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

J.C. St. Louis offers insight into the complexities of canine behaviour. Photos courtesy of Pexels and Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Perrault explains that unlike Schutzhund training that simply ends once the perpetrator is found at the end of the track, real authorities aim to bring the accused into custody and to do so requires relentless and repeated searches of the same area.

“To [Bosco], the track was done. Soon as he lost [the scent], it was done — he wanted to play, he wanted his reward, he would bite the leash and play tug-of-war. [But] we still had to look for a bad guy.”

Moreover, Perrault says interrupting into Bosco’s ‘play time’ usually left him with pretty distinctive and painful reminders to never do so again. “I was either having stitches put in or stitches taken out of me. He just went into this survival mode to get his reward.”

JC St. Louis explains the nature of dogs and the origin of their nerves.

JC St. Louis explains the nature of dogs and the origin of their nerves.

However, JC St. Louis, a canine behaviourist that's been involved on the dog scene for over five years prior to his service with CPS, isn't convinced that Schutzhund was what made Bosco a less effective police dog.

In fact, St. Louis points out that Perrault's second dog, Carlo, originally trained in Schutzhund, securing his certification for Sch1, Sch2 and Sch3 all within the same year. According to St. Louis, Carlo remains the most titled dog in Calgary and made a great police dog.

JC St. Louis and his titled dog, Carlo who he passed onto Doug Perrault when he left the unit. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

JC St. Louis and his titled dog, Carlo who he passed onto Doug Perrault when he left the unit. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

“You have to evaluate each dog within the situation and the people that are handling it,” St. Louis says, adding that there are a lot of complexities to canine aggression.

“A lot of it has to do with lack of responsibility in ownership. They think they know about dogs, they think they know what the dogs going to do, they think they’re going to pull the dog back when it’s aggressive and they don't know ... that their dog can do one to two bites per second.”

Chris Large, one of St. Louis and Perrault’s colleagues in the canine unit, says that although police dogs live to bite, they are strategically selective of who receives those bites.

“Our dogs never bit because they were afraid, they bit because it was their job and they enjoyed [working]. Our dogs did criminal apprehensions. There was a reason why he was sent, a warning was given. The dog did what he had to do.”

Newspaper clippings accumulated over the years that reflect the heroism of officers and their canines. Photos courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Newspaper clippings accumulated over the years that reflect the heroism of officers and their canines. Photos courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Retirement for top dogs

Perrault says out of all his canine partners, it was the hardest to explain the retirement process to Enzo.

“When I was going to work, Carlo was going with me and Enzo was staying home. You could just see Enzo saying, 'What's going on? I'm supposed to go' and it took him a long time to settle in the fact that he wasn't going to work with me every day.”

Jens Lind reminisces on a time when he brought his retired police dog, Keifer, to work and the excitement his dog had for the old workplace. Photos courtesy of Jens Lind, Calgary Police Service

Jens Lind reminisces on a time when he brought his retired police dog, Keifer, to work and the excitement his dog had for the old workplace. Photos courtesy of Jens Lind, Calgary Police Service

While all of Perrault’s dogs had a positive experience after service — with the exception of Carlo who died of a cardiac tumour in his fourth year on the force — Perrault admits that not all police dogs have a happy retirement.

“I don't even want to answer that,” he says.

Despite dedicating their whole lives to service, police dogs receive very little support for their retirement.

Despite dedicating their whole lives to service, police dogs receive very little support for their retirement.

Sgt. Chris Browne, one of the trainers at Innisfail Police Dog Training Centre where most RCMP dogs are sourced, says that police dogs unwanted by their handlers or other trustworthy surrogates and deemed un-adoptable by vets due to aggression are euthanized.

Perrault adds ownership of retired canine service dogs is costly because older dogs are more susceptible to illnesses. While handlers often carve out enough money to adopt their dog, some are deterred from bringing their four-legged partners home due to a lack of financial resources.

Financial difficulties mean police officers have to make a choice on what to cutback and oftentimes, the dog gets the short end of the stick. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Financial difficulties mean police officers have to make a choice on what to cutback and oftentimes, the dog gets the short end of the stick. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

“I know [handlers] who really wanted to take their dog and they said ‘I can't do it, I’ve got two dogs at home … I’ve got two little kids ... I can’t afford another $80 or $100 a month for his food … As much as I want him, I can’t financially do it.’”

Perrault says costs can run in the thousands and in the past, the City of Calgary would provide monetary support for retired canines, but during his later years with the police service, cutbacks were made and officers no longer received help from the city to adopt retired police dogs.

“It used to be that once you retired a dog, you still got some of the perks: dog food, … vet services, you also had the ability to put the dogs in the kennels while you went on holidays. Then, that was no more.”

The insignia that represents the RCMP Police force in Canada. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons Licensed

The insignia that represents the RCMP Police force in Canada. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons Licensed

The adoption and retirement process also changes across different police agencies. Unlike Calgary police dogs, service dogs from the RCMP cannot be adopted by members of the public even on the recommendation of a handler.

Moreover, Perrault adds that unlike their human counterparts, many police dogs receive little to no recognition for their service, a sentiment many officers in CPS’ canine unit can attest to.

Calgary police dog Pharaoh was only honoured 49 years after he was killed in the line of duty. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Calgary police dog Pharaoh was only honoured 49 years after he was killed in the line of duty. Photo courtesy of Ross Serbin, Calgary Police Service

Now 60 and retired, Perrault reflects on his appreciation and passion for his canine companions in service.

“The dogs, to me, are the best partners you could ever have. The dog just reacts. He comes in and he protects dad. They don’t whine about sitting in one place for too long, they don’t get upset when you drive too fast or too slow.”

He laughs, “They’re so willing to please all the time and you don’t have to decide where [to go] for coffee. Human partners don’t do that. That’s probably the best part — the adrenaline, the dedication that the dogs bring.”

Music Credit: Naoya Sakamata - "Dissociation" soundcloud.com/naoya-sakamata

Music Credit: Naoya Sakamata - "Dissociation" soundcloud.com/naoya-sakamata

The Officers

Marty Fulkerth was a sergeant who started his service with the canine unit in 1982. His partner was a purebred German Shepherd named Max. He retired in 2008.

Chris Large was a sergeant who started his service with the canine unit in 1986. His partner was a purebred German Shepherd named Magnum. He retired in 2000.

Jens Lind is a former canine unit sergeant who is currently serving under Calgary Police Service as an instructor with his semi-retired cadaver dog, Sully.

JC St. Louis was a sergeant and breeding coordinator who started his service with the canine unit in 1991. He trained Perrault’s dog, Carlo and retired in 1993.

Doug Perrault was a constable who started his service with the canine unit in 1987. He was partnered with a total of four dogs: Enzo, Carlo, Bosco and Rex. He retired in 2012.

Ross Serbin was a sergeant who started his service with the canine unit in 1987. He was partnered with a total of five dogs: Chico, Rico, Nero, Istok and Asta. He retired in 2006.

Chris Browne is an active RCMP officer with Police Dog Training Service Centre, a facility based out of Innisfail, Alta. responsible for training dogs to become canine unit recruits.

The Authors

Sam Nar is a writer by profession and a dog lover by nature. She has a Siberian husky named Ares after the god of war.

Email: snar@cjournal.ca

Antoine Fecteau is an eccentric French boy that films better than he writes. He enjoys spending time with his Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever, Bear.

Email: afecteau@cjournal.ca

Brian Cortez is an enigma and spends his free time at home with his two Bichon Shih Tzus, Chachi and Maggie.

Email: mcortez@cjournal.ca