“Toby proved to be an ugly, long-haired, lop-eared creature, half spaniel and half lurcher, brown and white in colour, with a very clumsy, waddling gait.” Sherlock Holmes requested Toby to help him track down a criminal. Later in the same story – Sign of Four – Toby picks up the scent, much to Holmes delight.
“Here you are, doggy! Good old Toby! Smell it!” He pushed the creosote handkerchief under the dog’s nose, while the creature stood with its fluffy legs separated, and with a most comical cock to its head, like a connoisseur sniffing the bouquet of a famous vintage. Holmes then threw the handkerchief to a distance, fastened a stout cord to the mongrel’s collar, and led him to the foot of the water-barrel. The creature instantly broke into a succession of high, tremulous yelps and, with his nose on the ground and his tail in the air, pattered off upon the trail at a pace which strained his leash and kept us at the top of our speed.”
If you have ever studied or just watched a K9 team on a track, it is amazing! The officer and dog spend so much time in training that they know each other well. Even though the premise is that the dog acts in real work like he does in training, the dog can usually tell that “this is the real thing.” He is also rewarded, usually by playing with his handler with a towel or a ball. The dog usually comes to know where the toy is kept, right down to the exact pocket.
To watch a handler while the dog is on a track is just as interesting. A casual observer who watches a team on a track may see nothing different in ten minutes time. Suddenly the handler will communicate that the dog is getting close, or has found something, or has lost the scent. I have been such a casual observer and have wondered how the handler knows that.
“By the way he cocks his head,” or “Didn’t you see him start that direction?” he says. My answer is usually something intelligent like, “No. I didn’t notice anything.” It truly is awe-inspiring to watch.
Of course, dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years as pets, hunters, and protection. According to the website Dogs for Law Enforcement, dogs have been used by the Romans, Spanish, British, German and American military forces. In the Korean and Vietnam wars, the use of dogs began to rise.
In the late 1800s, law enforcement agencies began to realize, at least in part, the potential for enhancing police work by the use of dogs. In London in 1888, bloodhounds were used to search for Jack the Ripper and by bobbies on patrol. Over the next forty years, Belgium, Germany, and Great Britain increased the use of canines. In the 1970s, their use was beginning to be accepted in the United States. Today, they are an integral part of almost every police department in the U. S.
When Chief Lou Goss was approached about the Pensacola Police Department considering a K9 program, he answer was (yelling), “WHEN A DOG CAN LEARN TO DRIVE A POLICE CRUISER, WE’LL CONSIDER IT!” He refused to spend money on a police canine unit.
Canines are used for tracking escaped prisoners and suspects. They are trained in drug detection, explosive detection, electronic detection, cadaver detection, and missing persons.
They say that a dog and his handler sometimes develop similar personalities. Anyone who remembers the team of Brad Burrus and Quinci during the early 2000s at the Pensacola Police Department would attest to the personality thing. Brad was a cutup and so was Quinci. Brad taught him to open the car door get out, finish his job, open the door, get back in, and close the door!
As a rule, American German Shepherds are slightly larger than European German Shepherds. Well, Quinci was large! He was about 30” tall and weighed about 85 lbs. (Brad could tell you more). But his head…his head! It was HUGE! I could see it taking an arm off and asking for more.
When I was working with Brad once, we were chasing a burglary suspect. The suspect ran through a neighborhood and, as Brad and Quinci pulled up to the place last seen, Quinci was put on the suspect’s trail. They tracked him to a neighborhood church and soon discovered him hiding underneath, in the crawl space. Brad ordered him to come out. He refused. Brad explained that he would have to let the dog loose. The man still refused. A few minutes later, Quinci drug the man out from under the building by…his scalp. The puncture kinda reminded me of a crown of thorns.
Late one evening when our shift was working, an alert officer noticed two nice brand-new automobiles without license plates that were being driven by teenage boys – two in the red one and two in the yellow one. Something…it didn’t look like they could afford such vehicles. The officer figured the cars either belonged to their parents or they were gotten illegally. As he was trying to decide, one sped off in one direction and one in the other. The officer decided to chase the red one, calling in his every turn. Officers, including Brad and Quinci, began heading his way. The boys were adventurous, but not very good drivers. They ended the chase by running into a literal brick wall, a stack in the middle of the brickyard. As the spry boys jumped out of the car, Brad called that the police K9 unit was there, and it probably wasn’t a good idea to run. The passenger, obviously the smarter of the pair, stopped and put up his hands. The other one – the one who hadn’t thought things through yet – decided that he would run. Now, in the history of police K9s, no human has ever outrun a police dog, but this boy thought he would be the first. As he ran, Brad let Quinci know that the chase was on. Suddenly, in Quinci’s mind, it was time to play “get the bad guy,” a fun game he plays a lot in training. He lit out after his prey.
As the fleetfooted suspect, who was wearing shorts, was climbing over a fence, Quinci bit at him, but only got his shorts. The suspect turned and punched Quinci in the face, causing the canine to step back and shake his head, as if to say, “what just happened?” The not-so-smart track star continued over the fence, running at full speed. Suddenly, Quinci didn’t like this game. As a matter of fact, he didn’t like the suspect either.
Brad, seeing what had happened, got control of Quinci and checked him out to see if he was okay. When they rounded a corner a few minutes later, there he was – the bad guy, and he was within sprinting distance of the big dog who remembered being punched and was currently angry about it. Brad tried to call him back, but, in Brad’s words, Quinci looked back at his handler as if to say, “Be with you in a minute.” He then turned his radar towards his target and lit out. He got to the suspect, who again tried to fight. Bad choice. When Quinci bit, his teeth disappeared into the leg of the suspect. After his top and bottom teeth came together inside the leg, Quinci shook, as if to proclaim that he had gotten his prey.
When the once-proud teenager limped back to the police car (minus a chunk of muscle), I asked him what he was thinking. He looked at me, moaned a painful moan and got into the back of the cruiser for a ride to the hospital. I am sure I saw a smile on Quinci’s face.
 The Sign of Four. The Complete Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Harper & Brothers, London, 1892. Acquired October 22, 2022
 Dogs for Law Enforcement. https://dogsforlawenforcement.org/index.php/police-canines-in-history/. Acquired October 22, 2022
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