Dressed to the (ca)nines

In September of 2010 Jeff LaLonde of the Buena Vista Police Department in Saginaw, Mich., and Zeus, his K-9 partner, were hot on a track. It began when a neighboring jurisdiction called in a home invasion. As they learned the premises was overflowing with...

MOLLE can also help in organizing the cyclone that is the K-9-equipped cruiser. Last year Ray Allen came up with the giant MOLLE panel to fit on the trunk’s lid. The panel has a series of pouches that use an annex clip instead of snaps, for easy grab-and-go storage.

“If you look in a K-9 handler’s car, there’s typically all kinds of crap hanging on their trunk, screwed up there, bungee corded up there, and duck taped up there just to keep it organized,” says Akenhead.

The trunk organizer also allows items to dry in the mesh — a good feature if your average work day includes traipsing around in swamps or woods. LaLonde laments: “If I come home and my uniform’s clean, I feel like I failed my community. If I come home and I’m dirty, or I have to come home halfway through the shift to get a dry pair of boots, a dry uniform, or I have to change my vest carrier out because it’s covered in mud, you know what … today’s a good day. We’re working our tail off today.”

On the road

A number of factors are in play when K-9 teams head off to work each day. The job is never routine. “You only find a guy on a track, I think nationally, 20 percent of the time,” says LaLonde. “So you’re going up against 80 percent that the guy’s going to get away from you. And this day in age everybody’s got a cell phone … if you don’t get there in a timely manner and you’re in a downtown city setting … they evaporate.”

But it’s not always about catching the bad guy. Zeus often picks up on guns and valuable discarded evidence along the way. This team operates on hours upon hours of quality training, endurance and lots of trust.

Says LaLonde: “If you’ve got a human next to you riding around as a partner, you’ve got to contend with all their drama. You’ve got to listen to their stories and listen to their family problems. The dog doesn’t say anything. He’s not racist, he doesn’t know how to lie … he doesn’t pick you out because you looked at him funny. The dog does not know how to fail. And that’s the best thing about it. Everything I say in the truck stays between me and the dog, and I don’t have to worry about him telling anybody else.

In today’s age of law enforcement, every officer might do well to have a four-legged partner at his or her side.

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