K-9 Jake the Wonder Dog

I was intrigued by the growling in the vehicle at the next pump, but could not make out the culprit, though it seemed to be a dog in a police cruiser. A uniformed officer was Jake’s handler (the growl had a name), and the German Shepherd-Border Collie mix is a member of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency Police Canine Division, which stood up in 1998 to combat terrorism, three years prior to the September 11 attacks. His handler took great pride in Jake, and it was clear he cared deeply for this animal. “Well, he’s 8, but he’s got a lot of good years left,” he said. “Obviously. I can hear that,” I thought.

This Pentagon unit with 21-40 dogs is an explosives K-9 division protecting the thousands working at the Defense Department as well as the Pentagon’s many visiting dignitaries. They also help other police forces around the national capital region. Aside from explosives detection, dogs and handlers respond to bomb threats, and check out suspicious vehicles and packages.

The officer confided Jake had faced some challenges, including a brush with death row. He had bitten his previous handler numerous times and was thought to be untrainable. Enter our police hero who said “Give me a shot,” and he and Jake have been working and living together for two years. Unlike military working dogs, these K-9s go home each night with their handlers. It has been found this lifestyle arrangement maintains a crucial rapport between dog and handler. (I wonder how an officer would react if his or her dog was in danger. I have done some crazy things for even crazier dogs.)

The public relations people have taken the sports hero approach with the dogs. Be it during school visits or with overly curious gas station patrons, the officers are happy to share the dog’s trading card. K-9 Jake has his own card with his photograph (complete with American flag) on the front. Biographical information and a synopsis about the K-9 program are on the back. It is difficult to imagine the dog I heard in the cruiser looks like the calm, bundle of joy pictured.

The officer shared when Jake retires he’d like to take him home permanently.

I’d settle for more trading cards.

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