We have all heard and read stories of the bravery and efficiency of service dogs that assist law enforcement and rescue personnel. But while we are focusing on the heroic aspects of the work that these dogs do we often fail to remember that these dogs live in a family setting. They become members of their handler's household, and also friends and cherished companions. And because they work with their handlers -- in often difficult and dangerous situations-- the bond between the human and dog becomes particularly intense.
I was recently sent a copy of a letter that a friend of mine received about a US Marshal dog named Beacon who lived in the Washington DC area and provided vital assistance on law enforcement assignments around the country. Along with his critical courthouse security assignments, Beacon has worked at the Super Bowl, the Pentagon, and the Supreme Court. On his passing his handler sent out this note which expresses the nature of the bond that forms between a human and his service dog partner more simply and eloquently than I have seen before. I pass it on to you so that you may remember that these service dogs, regardless of their training, are not mere machines or weapons, but friends and beloved family members as well.
It is with a heavy heart to inform you that Retired K9 Beacon was put to sleep this morning. Beacon’s physical body has been failing him and he collapsed on Monday and could not stand up. This gut wrenching decision was not made in haste, I have struggled with this decision all week. Beacon’s long time holistic vet came to our home and after eating three hamburgers (his all-time favorite meal!), Beacon peacefully passed away in my arms.
Beacon was born November 30, 1998 in a litter of eight. Beacon and his siblings were destined to become Guide Dogs, such a noble profession. Beacon was raised by his puppy raiser Anne Hensley in Kentucky until he turned 11 months old. He was returned to the Seeing Eyes in upstate NY to begin training as a guide dog. Unfortunately, his enthusiasm for chasing his arch enemy the squirrel put him on a path to me and our agency. Beacon excelled in explosives detection and first was trained and graduated in January 2001 and went to D/NV. Unfortunately that partnership dissolved and Beacon was brought back to ATF. In June 2001, Beacon and I first met.
Beacon and I did not have a master – dog relationship, ours were an equal partnership. I think I mainly served as a chauffeur so this black Labrador / golden mix could do his job. Beacon and I graduated September 19, 2001, we immediately went to the Pentagon to assist with security. I remember searching our first vehicle, the plane was still smoldering in the Pentagon and I was extremely nervous. I remember Beacon looking at me as to say, “I got this, we will be okay”, that was the day I gave him my compete trust. Beacon was more than an excellent explosives detection K9, he was my partner, my confidant, my coach, my teacher, and my friend. I was always in awe to see how he interacted with people of all walks of life, he treated everyone he met as the most important person in the world. I only wish I had a quarter of the compassion he had..
I am forever grateful to Beacon, he changed my life both personally and professionally. I am also grateful to our agency for recognizing that dogs have an integral part in supporting our missions. I also thank all my mentors that have supported and encouraged me and have given me an opportunity of a life time to work with great dogs like Beacon.
Lastly, I thank all of you, you always had time for him, there was no shortage of belly rubs, scratches behind his ears, and many, many unauthorized cookies... I know he will miss you all as well.. Thank you again for giving my wife and I the opportunity to have such a beautiful dog.
Mike & Beacon
Trust in me my friend for I am your comrade.
I will protect you with my last breath.
When all others have left you
And the loneliness of the night closes in,
I will be at your side.
Together we will conquer all obstacles
And search out those who might wish harm to others.
All I ask of you is compassion,
The caring touch of your hands.
It is for you that I will selflessly give my life
And spend my nights unrested.
Although our days together
May be marked by the passing of the seasons.
Know that each day at your side is my reward.
My days are measured by
The coming and going of your footsteps.
I anticipate them at the opening of the door.
You are the voice of caring when I am ill.
The voice of authority over me when I’ve done wrong.
Do not chastise me unduly
For I am your right arm,
The sword at your side.
I attempt to do only what you bid of me.
I seek only to please you and remain in your favor.
Together you and I shall experience
A bond only others like you will understand.
When outsiders see us together
Their envy will be measured by their disdain.
I will quietly listen to you
And pass no judgment.
Nor will your spoken words be repeated.
I will remain ever silent,
Ever vigilant, ever loyal.
And when our time together is done
And you move on in the world,
Remember me with kind thoughts and tales.
For a time we were unbeatable,
Nothing passed among us undetected.
If we should ever meet again on another field
I will gladly take up your fight.
I am a Police Working Dog and together
We are GUARDIANS of the NIGHT.
Stanley Coren is the author of many books including: Born to Bark; Do Dogs Dream? The Modern Dog; Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses? The Pawprints of History; How Dogs Think; How To Speak Dog; Why We Love the Dogs We Do; What Do Dogs Know? The Intelligence of Dogs; Why Does My Dog Act That Way? Understanding Dogs for Dummies; Sleep Thieves; The Left-hander Syndrome
Copyright SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd. May not be reprinted or reposted without permission