Maybe the best friend Hubby ever had was a dog! His name was E.J. and he was Hubby’s police dog.
When Hubby was a young patrolman on the Sheriff’s Department, he was a K-9 officer. That meant that he had a patrol car retrofitted with a cage where the back seat would normally be so that he could patrol with a K-9 partner. When his beautiful Lassie-look-a-like partner, Duke had to be put down because of hip displacia after just a short partnership, he was told that a new dog had just been donated (that’s the way they got most of the patrol dogs) that might work as his next partner. But the trainer warned Hubby that this dog was so anti-social that he might not work out as a K-9 partner.
A little information about the dogs that became K-9 officers back in the early 70’s: They had to be trainable, yet aggressive. They were trained in agility, to bite on command (trainers used a thick padded sleeve to train this) and to protect their human partner. Dogs that showed themselves in training to be fear biters (bit as a reaction to being startled or scared) were immediately washed out of the program because it was important that the officer be able to control the dog with voice commands even in tense situations. And before they were allowed to actually patrol with an officer, they and the officer had to go through months of rigorous training which included all kinds of agility work. When you think about it, that makes sense. If a K-9 is pursuing a suspect, you want it to feel routine to him to jump over a fence, run across a bridge or jump up on or down from a wall.
The K-9 officers mainly worked third shift because that’s when most of the activity that might require them happened. So a few nights after being told about the new dog, while patroling, Hubby stopped out at the training center to take a look at E.J. The trainer had been right — E.J. wasn’t interested in having anything to do with this new stranger. So the next day Hubby contacted the trainer and told him to stop feeding E.J.! Well, not really make him go without food, but to leave the food where Hubby could get to it, and he would start stopping out at the kennels every night and feeding E.J. himself. Gradually that worked, and E.J. bonded with him. And little did Hubby know what a friend he had made for life! The anti-social E.J. became absolutely devoted to him, while still not really liking anyone else.
E.J. was already intimidating when Hubby’s first met him because he was a big, black German Shepherd. But during one of their training sessions, E.J. caught one of his canine teeth in a chain link fence, and it was broken off. And it hurt so bad, that E.J. couldn’t bite the padded sleeve that was used in the training to train the dogs to bite on command. He was in danger of being washed out of the program!
But before that could happen, Dr. A the vet who took care of the department’s canines, came up with an innovative idea. He contacted a dentist friend (apparently another outside-the-box thinker) and they came up with a plan to replace E.J.’s tooth. The dentist made a gold cap for E.J’s canine tooth and when it was ready, E.J. was put to sleep and the gold cap was put on. Success! And, let me tell you, if you think a big, black German Shepherd is intimidating, he’s even more so when he “smiles” and you see that he has a gold tooth!
E.J. didn’t like to be touched. He tolerated it from his “one true love” Hubby, and surprisingly from our two young children, but he realllly didn’t want anyone else, including me, to touch him. Hubby always said he thought E.J. must have sensitive skin. Maybe so, or just an attitude! He had a bad habit of coming when someone would call him, as if he was going to let them pet him, but when he got close he would instead bite the person. Not a break-the-skin kind of bite, but just a little firm-grasp-of-your-hand bite to let you know that he didn’t want you to touch him!
Some of my favorite stories about the partnership between Hubby and E.J.:
There was a sliding gate in the cage in the car that opened to the front seat. When they were patrolling, Hubby would leave that gate open. And because he was well-trained, E.J. would stay in the cage, but he would occasionally stick his head through to give Hubby a nuzzle or lick on the side of the face, just to remind him that he was there. And, of course, the reason Hubby left the gate open was because E.J. needed to be able to get out quickly if he was needed. When Hubby would stop a car, and in the middle of the night who could know what he might encounter when he approached a car, he would leave the driver’s side window open. That way, if he called for E.J., he could get out of the car through the open gate then out the open window.
This open door (cage) policy did have one little draw-back for anyone riding in the front seat with Hubby. Ever his cop’s protector, it made E.J. a little nervous if someone got too close to Hubby. So, if the person while talking to Hubby would lean toward him in any way, E.J. would immediately stick his head out of the cage to insert himself between the person and his beloved cop. Hubby said that only had to happen once, and a person got the idea to stay on their own side of the car! (I don’t remember E.J. ever doing that to me when I would be in the car so apparently, even though he wasn’t crazy about me, he didn’t see me as a threat.)
One night while on patrol, Hubby drove down a country road and saw a young woman walking away up the road and a car stopped on the berm. Hubby went to the car where the young man behind the wheel said he and his girlfriend had had a fight on their way home from a date and she had insisted he stop the car and let her out — she would walk the rest of the way home. Well, he said they were several miles from her house, so he didn’t want her to make that walk, but he couldn’t get her to get back in the car. Hubby agree that they couldn’t let her walk there on dark country roads in the middle of the night by herself. So he called after her to stop so that he could talk to her. But she just kept walking, and even started walking a little faster. So in order to catch up, Hubby started running after her. What hadn’t occurred to him is how E.J. was viewing all this from the car. What E.J. heard and saw was Hubby yelling “Stop!” and then chasing someone. Those triggers told E.J. loud and clear that he should help. He immediately jumped out of the car and the next thing Hubby knew, E.J. raced past him on his way to “apprehending” the “perp”. Luckily, E.J. was well-trained, so Hubby was able to call him off before he got to the girl. The commotion behind her did make the girl stop and after some conversation among the three of them, she agreed to let her boyfriend take her home.
On another night Hubby and a whole group of other police from several agencies raided a huge party. When Hubby arrived and walked in the door the officers who had already arrived were announcing to the room who would be arrested and what everyone was expected to do. The room was standing room only, so when Hubby and E.J. stepped in the door, they were immediately sandwiched in among a crowd of people, some very drunk. One of those “very drunks” was standing on the other side of E.J. When he looked down and saw a dog, he reached down and patted E.J. on the head. Luckily for him, E.J. thought it was Hubby’s pat. But Hubby said to the drunk “Don’t pet the dog.” Common sense and drunk just don’t go together, do they? The drunk looked Hubby right in the eye, and with a loopy smile, patted E.J. on the head again. Hubby told him again, “DON’T pet the dog!” Hubby’s raised voice got E.J.’s attention, so just as the drunk deliberately reached down to pat his head for a third time, E.J. looked up and saw the strange hand — and did what was his habit to do with strange hands that got too close — he bit it. And I suppose because they were working, this wasn’t one of those gentle “don’t pet me, stranger” bites, but one of the serious, “I have to protect my cop” bites. While the other cops rounded up those being arrested and took them to jail, Hubby took the slightly wiser and more sober drunk to the hospital for stitches in his hand.
And on one night Hubby and E.J. were searching a dark warehouse. Suddenly a rat ran out of the darkness and it was coming in Hubby’s direction. I assume it wasn’t going to “attack” Hubby and would have veered off into the darkness again before it got to him. But E.J. saw it as a threat to his cop and intercepted it. The result was that E.J. and the rat had a short battle during which the rat bit E.J. on the nose. The rat, of course, ended up dead and E.J. ended up having to have rabies shots.
One time Hubby and E.J. were tracking a burglar across plowed fields toward a woods. There had been tracks leading away from the scene to show them which way to go, but Hubby had only seen an occasional footprint as they raced across the fields — he was just trusting E.J.’s nose. But when they came to the edge of the woods, E.J. stopped and just looked into the pitch blackness. Hubby couldn’t see anything in there. Why had E.J. stopped? Had he lost the scent? But when Hubby turned on his flashlight to look at the ground, he immediately saw a couple more footprints, so this was the way the guy had gone! Hubby then squatted down beside E.J. and encouraged him to continue tracking, but E.J. seemed to have his eyes set on something. So while down there at the dog’s eye level, Hubby peered into the dense woods again but this time on the same line as E.J. was looking, and he almost had a heart attack! His flashlight had suddenly illuminated two eyes looking back at him from less than a foot away! He ordered the exhausted burglar out of the undergrowth and he said the guy seemed relieved. For one, he was exhausted from running, so was glad he didn’t have to do that any more, even though jail was where he was headed. But probably also because he had seen that big black police dog coming across the fields looking for him and he was glad the dog hadn’t had to “catch” him. I wonder if maybe he might have even seen moonlight reflected off what looked like a gold tooth in that big, mean-looking dog’s mouth! And, of course, he had no idea how fortunate he was that the dog didn’t see him as a threat to his beloved cop.
A few years later when Hubby was promoted to a command position and didn’t patrol on the road any more, E.J. wasn’t happy because he wasn’t getting to “load up” in the police car for eight hours a day any more. So he was transferred to another officer, but it just didn’t work out — that wasn’t “his” cop. So he was retired.
My husband couldn’t have had a better partner. And in a willing-to-lay-down-your-life-for-a-friend way, E.J. was probably the best friend Hubby ever had, and for that reason alone I loved him too.