Saturday, March 16, 2013
DEATH OF MAN'S BEST FRIEND
In the spring of 1975, I was introduced to my new partner.
I was a U.S. Army military police officer, and he was a four year old German Shepherd, with which I would ultimately patrol and secure, one of our government s nuclear missile batteries, in Sak Sa Ni, South Korea.
With his army serial number, Y102, tattooed on the inside of his right ear, he stood on the inside of his kennel, staring and growling at me, as if I were the enemy. My sergeant said, "have a seat right there in front of him, feed him some meat and cheese every so often, and eventually he'll allow you in the kennel, so you can take him out for a walk."
Well, it wasn't as easy as it sounded. King was a sentry dog, one of the most aggressive types of working dogs in the U.S. armed forces. Their training consisted of basic obedience, agitation, and extremely aggressive attack work. They were not trained for socializing as police patrol dogs or house pets. They were trained to alert on intruders, attack them, and rip them to shreds, and King was quite good at his job.
Given that sentry dogs, were "one handler" dogs, his prior handler had left Korea to return to the United States, and I was to be his new partner and handler. That was if, he allowed me.
Over the next few days, he ate tons of treats, and I got closer to my new pal. And, once I got up the nerve to take him out of the kennel, we became one; A partnership, closer than most people would understand.
He was a stunning black and tan German Shepherd, and he looked just like Rin Tin Tin, another German Shepherd with U.S. Army roots. Rin Tin Tin, or Rinty as he was called, was found as a small pup in Lorrain, France, by U.S. Air Corporal, Lee Duncan, back in 1918, during World War I. He was eventually brought back to the U.S.. where he died at in 1932, but not before leaving a bloodline that wound up in a weekly TV adventure between 1954 and 1959, that every kid at the time, including me, loved and admired. It was he I thought of, when I first met, and began working with King.
King would respond to my voice, my hand commands, or to a look, or a movement. I didn't have to say a word, but he knew what I was thinking and why. With me, he was playful and loving, but with anyone else, he was deadly. He had no fear and he had no hesitation. If he perceived a threat, he dealt with it the way he knew how, and you didn't want to be on the receiving end.
In 1976, I left Korea, and I left King to a new handler. In the past 35 years, I have thought of him often.
Since then I have had many dogs, most recently, Duke and Duchess. Both German Shepherds, both trained like King, and playful, loving and caring members of my family. Both enormously protective.
For someone that has never had a dog, or a pet of any kind, it is difficult to understand, how close you can become to an animal. In June 2011, Duke passed away, and there are no words to explain how horrible that loss was, for me and my family. He is sadly missed, which is why I felt compelled to write about the recent loss of another German Shepherd.
His name was Ape, and he was 2 years and 4 months old, and had been on active duty for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for just over two weeks.
Two days ago, he was shot and killed by a deranged gunman, who had already shot and killed four people in Herkimer, New York.
Ape was a tactical dog, much like the one that accompanied the U.S. Navy SEALS on the raid that resulted in the death of Osama Bin Laden. Equipped with a camera, he entered an abandoned bar in the small upstate New York town, with and FBI assault team behind him, in search for the murder suspect. As he breached the door, he was shot in the chest by the gunman, who was then shot and killed by the FBI.
Ape was transported to a local veterinarian, where he died from his wounds. He was later transported to FBI Headquarters, where he will be buried, and his name will be added to a memorial for dogs killed in the line of duty.
As someone who trained dogs for more than 30 years, I know that Ape died doing something he loved doing. It was what he was trained to do, and although it cost him his life, he saved the lives of his handler and teammates, which could have been killed or seriously hurt.
Dating back to the days of Rin Tin Tin, and King, military and police dogs have increasingly become an important tool, in military operations, and law enforcement. Ape's loss is a demonstration, of just how important their missions are, or deadly they could be.
As an American citizen, I am grateful for his service, and his ultimate sacrifice... for his loss allowed others to live.
As a dog handler and trainer, my thoughts and prayers are with his team members, and most importantly his handler and trainer. It is he or she that will feel this loss the most.
To his handler, Ape wasn't just a dog, or a pet, or a tool. He was a partner, a protector, and patriot, and most importantly, he was a best friend.
A friend that will be missed forever.
God Bless his teammates that put their lives on the line for this country, and may Ape, forever rest in peace.
BERNARD B. KERIK
Posted by BERNARD B. KERIK at 10:42 PM