Should Saratoga County K9 Officer “Brodie” Retire Or Stay With The Department – I See Both Sides
My Facebook feed has been blowing up lately with the story of Brodie the K9 officer for the Saratoga County Sheriff's Department. It started with a letter written by the wife of Brodie's human partner, Joe Shields. In the letter she writes a beautiful story about a dog and his bond with his handler/partner, and his family. There is no doubt in my mind that the family loves Brodie with all of their heart and Brodie loves them as much. That is the nature of man's best friend, all of us who share our homes with a dog know that.
It seems that for unforeseen reasons, Shields has left the K9 Unit and would like Brodie to be "retired" so he can remain in the only home he has really known. I think we would all want the same in that position.
The Sheriff's department at this point had to make a decision to "retire" Brodie or re-assign him to another officer so that he could remain on the force. While to some this may seem like an easy choice but the truth of the matter is that there are so many circumstances that have to be considered and reconciled, not the least of these is the cost of replacing and training a new dog which can be well over $10,000 dollars. Another factor is Brodie's contribution to the department and how valuable a highly trained dog can be to a unit, it is not always a guarantee that a new dog would be as good as Brodie. After only 4 years "on the force" he is really just peaking and has many more years he could serve his community. My point, sometimes these things aren't as pretty or as easy as "The dog should be with his family".
With that said I did a little research on "reassigning" a K9 officer to a new partner and have found that this can also bring a great many problems to the police force. In most cases the new "team" does not do nearly as well as the former team and it can be very stressful on the dog, his partner/handler and the department.
On his K9 Officers consulting website, K9 expert Bob Eden writes: "Many administrators overlook the fact that the dog not only becomes a working tool of the department, but also becomes the best friend of the handler, and an integral part of the handlers family. When dealing with decisions which relate to the animal you are often making decisions which affect the officer, his wife, and his children.
It is still the policy of some departments to rotate dogs to new handlers every couple of years. The reasons given usually relate to offering other officers an opportunity to rotate into an often sought after position that has few openings under normal circumstances. I would have to write a manual on K9 bonding and behavior language in order to assist in understanding precisely why this policy works against the departments best interests."
My thought is that if it is indeed a matter of it being too difficult to "replace" Brodie in the department maybe we as the public can help. If it is primarily a financial situation I will be glad to start fundraising for the department. If it is as much about his training and experience maybe there is a way that while a new K9 is being trained Brodie can work part- time?
I do not pretend to know all the details involved in this decision but to be honest while I'm sure everyone will have an opinion on it, I am glad I don't have to make it myself. I just hope that in the end, Brodie gets whats every dog needs to be of service to a loving and giving master.