By Christine Smith, Public Affairs Staff
This is the first in an ongoing series, “A Different Breed of Officer,” featuring the St. Louis Fed’s K-9 program. We are profiling the dogs and handlers who dedicate their lives to keeping employees and visitors safe. (For security reasons, names are not used.)
Getting to know your colleagues is part of any new job. That holds true even when your co-worker has four legs and a wagging tail.
“I remember when I first met my partner. She was much smaller than the photograph I had seen. I was like, ‘That’s not the dog from the picture!’” says the St. Louis Fed’s K-9 handler based at our Memphis, Tenn., branch.
“The five weeks we spent in training were basically acclimating us to each other—and breaking the stubborn streak that she has,” he adds, chuckling.
Meanwhile, the two K-9 handlers at our St. Louis headquarters recall how their furry new partners played a switcheroo, of sorts.
“When we met the dogs for the first time, we kind of let them choose us. My K-9 partner was originally supposed to go with the other officer, but she chose me,” says one of the St. Louis handlers. “Originally, we were still like, ‘OK, that’s supposed to be your partner and vice versa.’ But by the next day, we realized that’s the better way of doing it—letting the dog choose who they want to be with.”
The St. Louis Fed introduced K-9s to our Law Enforcement division starting in 2014. Doing so added yet another level of security to a force dedicated to safeguarding people and property. They are extensively trained in various policing methods, including explosives detection.
Since then, our K-9 colleagues have become a beloved part of the Fed family.
“Our dogs add a great deal of value,” says the St. Louis Fed’s canine supervisor. “A dog and her handler are a team of two. It increases the safety here for Bank staff and guests alike.”
“Officer K” is a 6-year-old shepherd Malinois with a keen nose and plucky demeanor. Her handler describes her as “a ball of fire, full of excitement.”
“Officer V” is a 6-year-old Belgian Malinois cross with bright eyes and a sweet disposition. “I’d say she is spoiled,” confesses her handler. “She loves attention all the time!”
“Officer P” is a 2-year-old Dutch shepherd who may be small in stature but is big on personality. “She’s a very hard-headed little girl, but she’s wonderful at what she does,” says her handler, adding that “she’s a ham. A total ham.”
Make no mistake: These are working dogs, born and bred in Poland. The St. Louis Fed's K-9 teams are certified through the North American Police Work Dog Association, and dogs and handlers perform rigorous, ongoing training. In fact, they have won recognition in explosives-detection competitions.
“These dogs are not like your pets,” says Officer P’s handler in Memphis. “They’re only really happy when they’re working.”
When he greets his partner in the morning, “If I come outside in basketball shorts and a T-shirt, she is bummed. But if I come out in my uniform, she starts doing backflips in the kennel, like, let’s go!”
Our St. Louis-based officers agree: Their K-9 partners love to stay active. Given the fact that they spend most waking hours with the dogs, that’s a huge commitment for a human handler.
“Officer V loves to run. I’m glad I have a big backyard; she likes to play fetch. When I get home from work, I’ll give her a good 10 throws,” her handler says.
“Officer K is very spirited,” admits her handler. “It’s all about trust: She has to trust me, and I have to trust her. And—trust me—earning that was tough. She challenged me the whole time when we first met.” Still, he jokes, giving Officer K a good pat, “I’ve got the best partner ever. She doesn’t talk back.”