Suzy Snapper
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
RIP Nitro

A sad story today from the Vancouver Police canine squad. One of their own, Nitro, was killed Monday night in the line of duty.

The 8 year old German Shephard was attempting to apprehend car thieves when one tried to jump on a train. Nitro pursued him, and was able to take him off the moving train but lost his own footing and slid under the wheels. He was killed right in front of his partner.

The bond between an officer and his dog is one of the strongest. Even beyond that of an owner and a pet, they are trained to trust each other with their lives. They spend countless hours together...not just on the job, but also at home as often here the K9 partner lives with his officer's family.

That was the case for my brother's dogs when he was on the K9 unit. He was fortunate to have been partnered with two dogs which we watched him train from young pups. The preferred training for police dogs in this area is the Schutzhund-style, also known as the Hold-And-Bark method. Watching a well trained dog in action is an amazing display and often has left me in awe of the relationship between animal and handler. One of my brother's dogs was placed 3rd in Canada at his peak in Obedience and Tracking. Sadly, he passed away of colon cancer soon after and we mourned his loss as deeply as we would have a human family member.

In Schutzhund, the commands are chiefly given in German. There is one particular command to call a dog from a full run to a lay-down position. Not easy given that the situation may be volatile when the command is given during active duty. However, one word from his handler, a police dog will drop immediately to the ground.

We spent many a weekend, or evening, watching my brother train both his dogs. They became extensions of his arms and of his voice. Both dogs he was fortunate to spend time with also became part of our family as well and when they were off-duty, they were loveable family pets. But put on a uniform and enter the car, they were a different animal. Trained to perceive the most subtle situation, they would rarely take their eyes off the road and the environment around them.

When I heard of Nitro's passing today, it brought back all the memories of losing both my brother's dogs. Nitro was 8 years old and only months away from much deserved retirement. He'd earned many accolades over the years and most recently, was part of an auto theft ad campaign.

My heart goes out to Nitro's handler and his family tonight as they come to grips with such a tragic end.

Vancouver, British Columbia
A patriotic Canadian full of visions of a better Canada, random thoughts and a lot of hot air. Who am I? A struggling writer and photographer trapped in a corporate buyer's body. Steel shopping by day, and freeflowing prose by night. One day I hope to have the nights become my days, but am intimidated by the sheer amount of people who share my dream. So I read. A lot. I learn. A lot. I push myself. A lot. The world is a small place, and getting smaller every day. I'm proud to have friends in every corner of the earth, and abide by the old adage that there are no strangers, only friends we haven't met yet.
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