‘I’ve spent more time with him than I have with my family’

Police dogs and handlers form lasting bond

Steve Bartlett sbartlett@thetelegram.com
Published on June 14, 2011
RCMP dog handler Sgt. Chris Gladney of the RCMP Holyrood detachment is shown with his newest police service dog Tom (left) and his former partner Mirko, now retired and enjoying life as one of the family pets. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

They had been through thick and thin, from protecting U.S. presidents to tracking people lost in the woods, so adopting his police partner Mirko wasn’t a tough choice for RCMP Sgt. Chris Gladney.

“You say, ‘Was it a big decision?’ There was no decision there. You dearly love that dog, and there’s no way you’re going to send him off because he’s now retired,” he says.

Gladney is an RCMP dog handler. He and two peers in the province recently received new police service dogs as their old sidekicks were retired.

Interestingly, all three adopted the German shepherds and made them family pets.

Police dogs, it seems, are a police dog handler’s best friend.

“I’ve had him since he was 49 days old, and if you take a look at it, (over the last) 8 1/2 years, I’ve spent more time with him than I have with my family,” says Gladney, who’s based out of the Holyrood detachment.

The dog-namic duo has worked hundreds of cases together. There have been numerous homicide investigations, countless searches for missing people and many treks to find articles missing from crime scenes.

Because Mirko is cross-trained in detecting explosives, they’ve also been tasked to provide security detail for many VIP visits and big events.

They’ve protected three American presidents on visits to Canada — George Bush senior and junior and Barack Obama — as well as prime ministers, members of the Royal family, the king of Spain and other dignitaries.

Mirko and Gladney also worked at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics for two months and the G20 Summit in Toronto.

“He had a pretty good career,” Gladney says.

And a pretty good home life, too. Mirko has been such a part of the Gladney family, they’ve planned vacations around him.

“They don’t see him working,” Gladney says of his family. “He’s always been a family pet to them.”

The bonds between dog and family made it a no-brainer to keep the dog, even though the officer was also bringing a new animal, Tom, home with him.

“It’s something that the family has to buy into,” Gladney says.

According to Gladney, Mirko is adjusting well to retirement, to life as a pet who stays home when the cellphone goes off in the wee hours of the morning. He says the dog seems to realize he’s finished working, and probably has since he went away to train with Tom.

Mirko’s transition from police work to domesticity wasn’t automatic though.

“The first day I came back with my new dog, Tom, I put Tom in the truck and I said, ‘Mirko, stay, stay home now.’ We have an almost six-foot fence and he jumped it (as if to say), “Hey, what are you doing without me?’ ”

Gladney says Mirko has a good relationship with his replacement, and they are learning from each other.

“It’s like the children’s show ‘The Fox and the Hound,’ where the old dog and the young dog get along.”

The other dog handlers getting new canines and adopting their old ones are Cpl. Bill Frisby of the Grand Falls-Windsor detachment and Cpl. Jason Butler, who’s stationed in Bay Roberts.

Interestingly, Butler’s new dog, Brock, was named after Const. Brock Myrol, one of the four RCMP members killed in the line of duty in Mayerthorpe, Alta, in March of 2005.

Like Gladney, Frisby says there was never really any debate about adopting Muzak.

After being so close for eight years, he says, “It’d be very hard to then turn around and give him away.”

Frisby’s new dog, Tank, plus Muzak and a family pet mean there are three dogs living at the officer’s home.

He always keeps his police dog outdoors in a special pen with an insulated dog house. Frisby says Muzak was quite happy to finally spend nights in the house after he was adopted.

“Oh yes, very excited,” he says.

Gladney says the animals are special, and must have what it takes by being fearless and loyal, yet sociable. He points out that something like one in 63 make it through the RCMP’s training program in Innisfail, Alta.

“It takes a very rare dog to be a police dog,” he says.

Little wonder the officers are keeping them.

sbartlett@thetelegram.com

Twitter: bartlett_steve