Comrades honour RCMP police service dog
“Rev” was an RCMP police service dog that spent most of his life protecting and helping people in Western Canada. The dedicated, hard-working German shepherd was close to retirement when tragedy struck last spring: Rev was involved in a car accident near Saskatoon, Sask., and died of his injuries on June 14, 2013.
“It was a bad car accident that caused serious injuries to Rev’s handler – he was bedridden for months and is just getting back to being operational,” says RCMP Corporal Andy Brown from St. Albert Police Dog Service (PDS) in Alberta. “And it was really a tragedy for Rev because he was just on the brink of retirement, and he didn’t get to retire.”
When Brown and a group of his fellow handlers from the PDS decided they wanted to do something to honour the service dog’s memory, a donation to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) immediately came to mind.
“Rev had been brought to the college after the accident – we’ve historically used the veterinary college with our pups and our working dogs,” Brown explains. “So we did some research to decide how we wanted our donation to be used by the college, and we felt the Good Samaritan Fund was the most ideal.”
In October 2013, the officers donated $2,000 to the WCVM’s Good Samaritan Fund in memory of Rev. The fund, which was established in 2011, covers the costs of medical treatment in situations where the animals are ownerless or where they’re owned by clients who are unable to pay for their care.
“There’s a lot of good that comes out of the college, and being able to help ownerless dogs or animals in need is a great cause,” says Brown. “It’s a situation where something good can come out of something bad.”
The officers’ donation is a fitting tribute to an animal whose life was devoted to the RCMP from the time that he was born at the RCMP’s Police Dog Service Training Centre in Innisfail, Alta.
Rev and all of the other puppies born at the centre are products of the service’s breeding program which is aimed at producing animals with the specific genetic traits necessary for police work.
After spending the first two months of life with their moms – an important aspect of their development – the puppies are assigned to RCMP members who have volunteered to be imprinters. For the next year or so, these imprinters will work at socializing the animals while exposing and familiarizing them to a variety of different environments, people and situations.
“Not every dog is meant to be a police dog, so we also test them throughout the year to determine if they’re going to stick around in the program,” Brown explains. “Not every puppy makes it, but we always find them a home – either as a pet somewhere or as a working dog for another agency.”
Once the puppies that remain in the program have reached the necessary maturity level, their formal police dog training begins. The animals are then assigned to their handlers – the individuals who will work with them throughout their training and then throughout their careers as police dogs.
Although the length of the initial training varies depending upon the handler’s experience, the animals are placed under a lot of pressure as they train for eight hours a day over a number of weeks. Even once the basic training is over, the handlers have one designated day a week that’s set aside for them to work together on honing their dogs’ various skills.
The dogs live with the handlers and their families while providing support services whenever they are required. They and their handlers respond to a wide variety of calls, and their duties include searching, tracking and looking for items such as drugs.
“They’ve proven themselves invaluable over the years, and they’re a big part of police work,” says Brown. “We use high-energy, high-drive dogs that are motivated and really like to work. They’re very intelligent, loyal and hard-working, and they bring a lot to the table.”
The average police dog is retired after about seven years in the field, and that’s usually when he gets a chance to relax and savour his role as a much-loved member of his handler’s family.
Sadly, Rev won’t get the opportunity to enjoy that phase of his life. But Brown and the other handlers hope that their donation in his memory will help to remind people of the hard work and dedication that Rev and all of the police dogs bring to their service with the RCMP.
“Rev had the same characteristics as any of our dogs,” says Brown. “They work very hard for very little, just some affection and some love and sometimes a ball to chase. They’re just amazing dogs.”
For more information about the WCVM’s Good Samaritan Fund, contact the college’s Development Office (306-966-7268 or email@example.com).