This morning, a German Shepherd used by the Minneapolis police department fell off a roof and died.
Oh how we expect so much from dogs. They cannot give true consent, yet we send them into situations considered too dangerous by human standards.
I have never met a drug-sniffing dog, but I have met several K-9 police dogs. All were stressed out, slightly unpredictable, high-wired, highly reactive dogs. It isn't just breeding - I've met some of their siblings who live in companion homes and their behavior is far different. I do wonder if it is partially the result of being exposed to highly stressful daily activities. I am certain there are dogs who are far different than the police dogs I've met, and really, I'd like to meet more of them. Because from what I've seen, being a police dog isn't just dangerous work, it can be mentally and physically unhealthy for the dogs.
A note about the picture: This is one of the police dogs who patrol the streets in my town. She's a 6-yr-old German Shepherd. She would not let go. Her handler nearly had to beat her off to loosen her grip. After this public demonstration, the handler gave her a little time to calm down and then invited people to pet her. I wouldn't touch her with a 10-ft pole. She was tense, nervy, and looked ready to bolt or bite. She didn't do either, but her body language screamed "I am not comfortable with this". We also have a K-9 Malinois who is beautiful to watch work sniffing out contraband, but who is also highly reactive, dog aggressive and ready to chomp on anyone's arm who looks at him funny.
At the same event, there was King. He reminds me a little of a picture Retrieverman recently posted of a 1915 German Shepherd. King was imported from Germany and weighs about 65 lbs. He has a pretty straight top line and was is this lithe, rangy Shepherd. I had been so used to seeing thick, large, slope-backed GSDs, I never realized they could look so athletic. I wish I had gotten a standing, profile picture, but he was far too interested in lounging. His owner/guardian gushed about him, his temperament and personality, his solidness and joy. Oh, pride! I was permitted to not only touch his soft head but hug him, I do so love a dog who permits the rude behavior of hugging with dignity and grace. :) From a perfect stranger, no less!
King's guardian was not impressed by the police dog. He wouldn't let his kids go near her, and suggested I do the same (I agreed). King did protection work, farm work (his guardian says he was a little bit of a mouthy herder, though), and home work (raising his kids right, heh). He never wanted to see any of King's pups become police dogs. At the time, I didn't think to ask why (it seemed glaringly obvious next to that crazy beast of a police dog, tense and alert nearby).
I realize I'm meandering. I was originally going to talk about both the Minneapolis police dog and another tagless, chipless drug-sniffing dog who was accidentally euthanized at a shelter. But I started thinking about King and the police dogs I've met and this is the result.