Every year BACB Unleashed chooses a special need of the community to focus on fundraising efforts for and to make a difference in the lives of dogs. Last year we raised funds to purchase oxygen masks for local and surrounding Fire Departments. This year, through Operation Vest Defense, we are raising funds to purchase bulletproof vests for the newest K-9 officers Riley and Sarge of the Rochester Police Department. I wanted to get to know more about these furry protectors so I started by setting up an interview with one of the supervisors of the Olmsted County K-9 Unit.
I had the privilege of talking to Rochester Police Sergeant Mike Drees. What he shared that day provided a wealth of information that I’ve been thinking about ever since.
Canine police officers are so often perceived as fearless, biting, and bad guy apprehending attack machines. The truth about canine officers is that they are heroes. They are loved. They are happy, sad, and above all loyal. They would (and sometimes do) give their life for their handler. However, their handler IS NOT ALLOWED to protect their K-9 partner in the same way.
I’m writing this Blog because we, the public, have an opportunity to improve their safety by putting a protective vest on them. I’m going to ATTEMPT to capture the passion and dedication this unit has to our community. When you’re finished reading, I hope you will pull $10.00 out of your wallet or purse and give it to Operation Vest Defense.
The Cops With Tails and Those Without
Who are the handlers of K-9 Officers? They aren’t your average police officer. They have to WANT to work as a team with a K-9 Officer and that’s a big decision. The decision involves a serious commitment to a partner with fur, razor sharp teeth, and who doesn’t speak English! It’s not just a matter of riding around with a dog in your car. It’s a relationship and job that can last more than a decade. The dogs train, work, and stand ready to serve every single day. Sergeant Mike Drees provides supervision to the Rochester Police Department K-9 unit
. He admits that growing up as a Dairy Farmer’s kid, he always had animals in his life and work dogs, but he didn’t have a pet and wasn’t even a huge animal lover. He said he respected dogs and recognized their intelligence but that was about it.
In 1999 the police force requested and was approved for 4 dogs starting in the year 2000. K-9 Officers are able to do many things their human counterparts are unable to do, like smell the scent of illegal drugs and explosives. Somebody told Sergeant Drees to “come and see” the K-9 Cops and when he did, he was awestruck. The dogs were in love with their work and they were doing things that were not natural to them out of loyalty to their handler. He decided he would go to training and one training led to another and before long he left his position on the SWAT team to work on the K-9 Officer team. Sixteen years later he is still working with the hounds he cultivated a passion for.
The information I have to share with you is so vast and great; I can’t include it all in one blog. Come back each Monday and I will reveal more of it for you. In the meantime, if you already know you want to donate to Operation Vest Defense, click here and follow the directions. We have already raised approximately 65% of the total funds necessary to outfit both Riley and Sarge with new protective vests.