Dutch bursts out of the police truck with his teeth ripped back in a vicious snarl. The German Shepherd’s blood’s up and pity anything that gets between him and the crook. Anything but the slobbery toy Const. Paul Jessen holds out, instantly turning the fierce beast into a puppy.
Jessen got Dutch when he was 11 months old, and the dog already had a chip on his shoulder. That’s part of what makes the 85-pound K-9 cop such a valuable partner.
“They do have that aggressive streak when you need it. There are times when you have to arrest somebody and they’re not about to be arrested,” the Halifax Regional Police cop explains.
Jessen’s been with the police for 21 years and in the K-9 unit for 13. He’s on his third dog, and he’s seen them sniff out some well-hidden bad guys.
Jessen and his dog once arrived late on the scene of a stolen van. The thieves had ditched the vehicle and fled on foot.
“It was a parking lot, which is more difficult for the dogs because the hard surface doesn’t retain the scent as well as grass or woods,” he says. “He went right to a dumpster a half kilometre away. We looked inside and sure enough, they were inside. It was a mother and son team.”
Most criminals underestimate the dog’s nose, which can track down explosives, narcotics and evidence, as well as people.
“A lot of people are very surprised. They’re not expecting to be caught,” he says. “They are German Shepherds and they do have huge teeth.”
Cops and canines work and live together. Dutch’s insulated dog house is in Jessen’s backyard, so he quickly adjusts to the weather. He’s about halfway through his eight-year working life.
“Then, they start showing their age. The work is fairly punishing for them. It’s punishing for us, too,” Jessen says. In retirement, the dogs often become pure pets for the handlers, or they find another home for them.
Not all are as ill-tempered as Dutch. Jessen took his retired German Shepherd to visit his three-year-old nephew. “He was all over him, and he doesn’t care at all. I wouldn’t do that with (Dutch). He’s got personal space issues.”