A life filled with service, a retirement filled with toysAug 06, 2019 04:07PM ● By Erin Dixon
Duke has led a fulfilling life of fighting crime and toys. (Erin Dixon/City Journals)
By Erin Dixon | [email protected]
Is your ideal retirement filled with toys? Duke’s is. Preferably tennis balls and bite sleeves.
Officer Tom Smith has been Duke’s constant companion. Smith, who trained Duke, bought him from the city for $1 and continues to care for Duke in his retirement.
“...[H]is life was very structured, he has a command for everything. He really only got to do what he was told. He didn’t get toys unless he was working…[T]hey get paid with toys. Now he gets to have toys all the time.
“I have given him old bite sleeve covers and let him have his way with them. To him that’s the ultimate, the bite sleeve.”
Retirement isn’t entirely relaxing for a trained working dog. It can be a difficult adjustment.
“He goes crazy when I go,” Smith said. “That’s the part of this kind of Malinois, they have that heart, they just want to work, work, work.”
Duke worked with Smith on 1,135 cases through his life with the force. He was retired for his age and his slowed pace. His training was for patrol and drugs.
His nose is his powerhouse. He can locate an extinguished marijuana joint in an ashtray from outside a vehicle.
A dog's sense of smell can grant an officer what is known as “plain sight” that gives them the right to search a vehicle or building. But for a dog, it’s called “in plain smell.”
“With a dog, a dog has the ability to smell an odor leaving the vehicle,” Smith said. “The supreme court has determined that you have no right to privacy of odor emitting from your vehicle.”
The sense of a single joint is his most impressive feat, but he has also detected 150 pounds of marijuana from outside a vehicle, which is undetectable to a human.
Another example of Duke’s impressive nose is his tracking of an active shooter, simply from the shooter’s abandoned hat.
“One of his best things...a guy who shot 15 rounds at a hotel clerk, took off on foot and jumped a bunch of fences. They gave me...a hat that he had dropped. He made a beautiful track and footstep by footstep, after about two city blocks (went) right to where he was hiding underneath an...electrical box,” Smith recalled. “It was great, surprised me.”
A police officer trains and continually works with his own dog. Smith was inspired by his grandfather who was a horse and dog trainer.
“I have a grandpa who was an amazing horse trainer. He always had dogs and they were all trained the same way. You don’t break a horse, you gentle a horse.
“It’s the same thing with a dog. There’s compulsion and there’s coercion to make a dog work. There’s got to be a lot more coercion and a little bit of compulsion to have a successful trained animal.”
“That’s why I wanted to be a police officer. I like my job. I love my canine job.”
Smith now has two new dogs that live and work with him, another patrol and drug dog, and a rescue and bomb dog. At home, the two new dogs get along with Duke, though they can outrun him.
Even though Duke’s police days are over, he is still content. “He’s happy. He’s very happy,” Smith said.