I visited with Canton City PD’s K-9 Trainer Eric Stanbro this morning while he was sitting in vigil for K-9 Officer Jethro, who had been shot early this morning in the line of duty. He was able to give me a little history about the now 3-year old German Shepherd, and I wanted to share it with you.
Officer Ryan Davis originally worked with a dog named Armand. Like most handlers, Ryan took his dog home with him at night, considering him a member of the family. Armand was one of the few police dogs I’ve met who is totally socialized so that you could approach him without worrying about getting nipped. When Armand passed, Ryan wanted to get a German Shepherd puppy from the same breeder, as a gift for his daughter.
CORRECTION: Armand is not dead! He’s simply “retired and lazy” according to Ryan. Armand is living out his retirement as a pet in their home.
He consulted with Trainer Stanbro, who told him that the department wouldn’t work with a dog younger than one year old, and the department couldn’t pay for an un-tested dog any younger than that. Ryan wanted a puppy for his daughter, so he bought Jethro at 8-weeks old on his own dime.
According to Stanbro, when he starts working with potential K-9s at about a year old, many dogs are still very immature. In fact, the dog he is currently training has the youthful exuberance of a 7-month old rather than a one-year old. By contrast, at the age of one, Jethro acted like a much older dog. Stanbro was impressed enough to allow Ryan to start Jethro in the K-9 training program.
By the age of 18 months, he had graduated, and he hit the streets with Ryan. The pair has been inseparable since then.
Having met them at the car wash last week, I can personally attest to the bond they share. From the time they got out of the car, Jethro never took his eyes off of Ryan. Of course, Ryan was holding his Kong toy, so that may have had something to do with it.
And somehow, Jethro also has that same socialization that Armand had. He is just, well, nice. He even let me take his Kong toy out of his mouth so I could toss it for him. I’m not sure my own dogs would let me do that! Due to his XL build, he is known around the department as “The Buick with teeth”!
I’ve taken a lot of K-9 (and regular canine) pictures to post here on the blog. (My kids get embarrassed because I’m always introducing myself and asking if I can make people’s dogs an internet sensation.) I can tell you that many police officers will not allow me to approach their dogs because of the liability if the dog would bite. I’m usually allowed to take a picture, but the dog is generally held tightly on his leash by the handler.
In Jethro’s case, Ryan just let the leash go and got out of my way so I could snap a few shots. I never imagined I’d even see them again, much less under the horrific circumstances of Jethro having been shot. I spoke briefly to Ryan, who was visibly shaken. I don’t think it has hit him yet that Jethro saved his life. He’s too busy worrying about how the dog is doing. I asked about his daughter, and he reports that she’s pretty upset, too, but he didn’t go into any details. I’m sure he doesn’t want much made public about his family.
While at the vet clinic, I was also able to speak to several other officers. I asked one of the K-9 handlers if Canton PD had bullet proof vests for their dogs. He said they do have them, but they are very old, very heavy, and very rarely used.
I have started a GoFundMe campaign to purchase new vests for the K-9 unit, as well as to help defray some of Jethro’s medical bills. In the first 30 minutes, we’ve raised more than $100. Please help if you can.
I’ll be going back to visit Jethro for sure tomorrow, maybe tonight if I can swing it. I’ll bring all of your good wishes, and try to get a photo if Jethro is up to it.
Until next time,
Good day, and good dog!