401-k9 retirement


There I was, sitting at home, enjoying a night off in early 2015. I received a phone call from an Officer from a local police department in the South part of Utah County.

I had been an Officer myself for American Fork, for the past 10 years, 2 of which, I had been in K-9. In 2012 and 2013 I went to K-9 School and became certified as a "handler", with my dog, Wolf. I was certified in both Patrol and Narcotics disciplines.

I had the job of my dreams. The job I had always wanted. Well, in 2014 and 2015 I went back to the same school, with a new dog, Ryder. It was at this time, not only did Ryder become certified in the same disciplines, but I obtained my "instructor' status.

I received a call from the officer who stated he was going to Narcotics school with his new dog, Bak. The officer explained he originally started the school, 2 weeks ago, with another dog, but they had to return the dog because he didn't have what it took.

The officer said he now had this new, 1-year-old dog, Bak. The officer explained he still wanted to participate in this current school and he didn't want to wait 4 months for the next one. The officer talked to the man in charge of the K-9 School, explaining his desires. The head of the department told the officer, "go see Russ Bishop in American Fork. He's the best and he will get you caught up so you can still attend this course."

I was humbled by the comments made. The officer asked if I would help him. I told him we would be doing our weekly K-9 Training tomorrow, and he could join and I would get him ready. The next day is when I met Bak for the first time. I watched this blocky headed, 1 year old Malinois/shepherd walk into the police department.

I was awestruck. He was gorgeous, full of energy and you could tell he was eager to work. I tested him on the bite suit and equipment and remember thinking to myself, "if this dog gets a hold of someone, that's going to be a really bad day." Bak was exceptional, showing almost no flaws in his abilities and temperament.

It was then we went and began his narcotics training, to see if he had what was necessary to do that part of the job. Bak was a hunter and had a nose that would not be denied. As we hid narcotic after narcotic for him to find, we simply couldn't hide it in an area, Bak wasn't able to find it. Some of them with so much ease, it seriously was disheartening for me. I thought for sure I was hiding some with great difficulty. Well not for Bak. Bak made quick work of all my hides, and was so good, within 10 hours of training, he made 2 weeks worth of progress.

I remember shaking the officer's hand, wishing him the best of luck, and watching him leave the police department. I looked at my fellow K-9 handler, and said, "that dog is incredible. You don't find dogs like that." My partner said, "I know. I'm a little jealous."

Keeping in touch for a while, I heard Bak was one of the talks of the entire class. It didn't surprise me. The Officer he worked with at the time was an incredible guy, and Bak only made it better.

2 weeks ago I got a call from the department who owns Bak. The officer, asked if he could have a moment of my time. I said, "you bet sir. What can I help you with?"

He asked me if I knew their dog, Bak. I said, "of course I do. How could I forget that dog?" He chuckled at my comment. The officer then explained the department was looking for a new home for Bak as he had recently suffered a career-ending injury to his spine. The officer explained the Chief of the department asked him to call me and see if I wanted to take Bak and give him a good home, where he could retire in peace, and not have to work the rigorous job of law enforcement anymore.

As you may or may not know, a retired police dog of any age, can't just be retired to any member of the public. These dogs are training weapons, and have been taught special skills for apprehension and nose work. These dogs HAVE to be retired to either a current or former Police K-9/military K-9 handler, or they will be put down.

The officer explained neither of Bak's current or former handlers was in a position, where they were able to keep him for the rest of his life. So, they called me at Maligator and asked if I would be interested so they didn't have to put him down.

Before the officer could finish his sentence, I said, "I'll take him. When do you want me to come get him?"

Long story short, about a week after this conversation, I was the police department picking up my new dog Bak. Excited to see this dog again, I felt like a kid on Christmas. I felt like if anyone can help this dog or is willing it's me, and it was awesome to see this dog again.

When I laid eyes on him the first time, my heart hit the bottom of my stomach. I began tearing up at the mere sight of him. Bak was clearly in so much pain and was constantly in fear. In fear, because any interaction with any human, toy or obstacle hurt him. It hurt to move, it hurt to play, it hurt to get a pat on the back.

I asked a few questions about his status and knew I needed to get him into Isaac Bott as soon as I could. Bak, now a mere 3 years old, wasn't "Bak" anymore. I looked into his eyes and could see a sweet soul. I could see he was in pain and could see he just needed a life of fun, leisure activities I could see he wanted to interact and be a dog, but he just couldn't make his body do it. Bak wanted love and affection but was afraid of the physical pain any of that would cause.

That day we took him into Dr. Bott offices. It was found Bak had three areas of his spine that were broken, two broken ribs, and some dental pain. I found each of the problems was due to the trauma he had suffered from doing the hard, physically demanding job of a law enforcement K-9. Some muscles and overdeveloped, while others had underdeveloped.

Jumping, running, biting, tugging, wrestling bad guys is as physically demanding of a job for a dog, as I have ever seen. These dogs have to be ready for a fight, have to be ready to take some pain, in sacrifice for their handler.

These dogs, without asking for a wage, or benefits, go to work with their tail wagging, each and every single day. They don't ask for days off, or even complain when they are sick. They sit in the back of a patrol vehicle, ready to sacrifice all for their handler. They are willing to put their bodies through pain and maybe even death if it means they can protect their handler or the streets they work. The department felt bad and did the right thing by retiring him even at the age of 3. They did this so Bak didn't have to be in pain anymore.

Bak was put on pain meds, given some vaccines and has been spending each and every day with me since Thursday. We've been getting exercise, a diet change, some toys to chew on, daily stretching, massage of certain muscles, and I'm happy to report Bak has been making an incredible turnaround. Bak is not only walking better, but he ran for the first time today, after a ball. HE RAN!!!!!!!!!! With three broken spinal bones he ran.

Just like the dog, he was when I first met him, Bak is relentless and will not be denied a good life. He perseveres through this adversity with a smile on his face, and a happy bark and tail wag every time he see's me.

Join me will you on Bak's road to retirement and recovery? Bak will likely be going through laser treatment here soon, and we want you to be involved in helping him make the most out of his retirement. Whether it's a gentle pat on the head when you see him, a hug around his neck, or you continued cheers and words of support, be a part of Bak's story.

Let's join together, as a group, or pure dog lovers, and show this dog who has given so much, how good retirement with the Maligator crew can be. This dog kept countless drugs off the streets and out of the hands of our children. This dog found lost kids, or bad guys, and helped bring them home, or take them to jail.

This dog gave everything he had for as long as he could. Don't we owe him the same?

"Together great things can happen. If we join together, to pursue a good cause, no obstacle can stand in our way."

Russ Bishop
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Russ Bishop 
Spanish Fork, UT
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