In writing Rocky’s memoir, I tried to include everything. Needless to say, that was an impossible goal. But, every once in awhile, a coworker will reminisce over a Rocky story that usually begins, “Remember when…” The following incident is not included in the book and is written by a coworker who vividly remembers K9 Rocky eyeballing him.
This is a short story about a very brief interaction between a naïve, clueless rookie cop and a battle-tested, hardened veteran police K9.
After graduating the classroom portion of the police academy, rookie officers are paired with seasoned cops for several months during a “field training” phase aimed at teaching the recruit how to do the job correctly and safely. Quite often, this training period involves rookies learning valuable lessons. Lessons regarding policy, regarding law, regarding in-house survival or, most importantly, lessons regarding their own safety.
While nearing the tail end of my “field training” period, I was becoming fully aware of exactly how much I truly didn’t know about the job. I had reached a point where I was efficient at most of the routine tasks and paperwork, but I still had lapses in judgment and safety, which I now know was very normal.
While driving to another routine call, my instincts had started to develop and the nervous behavior of another vehicle’s passenger caught my eye. As it turns out, riding in a stolen vehicle and seeing a police car makes criminals act strangely. Not wanting to be accused by my trainer for failing to take action, I chose the Hollywood version of what to do, the outrageously unsafe version. I screeched to a halt right in front of the stolen car, jumped out in heavy daytime traffic and pointed my gun at the driver. While screaming police commands, I successfully managed not to let my superhero cape get in the way. Although never taught, I must have believed that pointing your gun at people makes you invincible. In reality, I was a fool. I stood in front of a running vehicle with a scared, drug-fueled, possibly armed felon behind the steering wheel. I unknowingly dared him to drive at me in what I’m sure later would have been viewed as an officer provoked shooting..
Luckily, the meth crazed long time criminal chose to make a quick u-turn and flee. I jumped back in my vehicle to give chase and found the stolen car abandoned in a field and partially crashed into a fence. Police Agent Darren Maurer arrived minutes later with his K9 partner Rocky and quickly but calmly prepared to launch a search to where the occupants had fled on foot. I watched excitedly, not really knowing what I should actually be doing or what was about to happen. Agent Maurer gave the command and off they went with Rocky leading the way. Ultimately, Rocky took his handler to where the criminals had left the area in a taxi cab where the destination was quickly discovered and intercepted before its passengers could get away. It was a good arrest, but all at the cost of me making a huge, laughably dumb decision that, thank God, didn’t get anyone hurt or killed.
In the midst of the event, I found myself at the “Jiffy Lube”, where Rocky had tracked the suspects who were seen getting into the taxi cab. Agent Maurer was standing in the parking lot holding Rocky’s leash in one hand and talking with the grey-haired senior Sergeant. I approached and began to explain the initial portion of the event, not realizing both Darren and the Sergeant were probably listening in horror as I detailed what I had done. Rocky was facing away from me, panting slightly, and indifferent to my approach and loud, obnoxious story. I looked down at Rocky and watched as he turned his head to look at me, still calmly panting. He then looked away and peered off into the distance. Just as I’m sure the humans in this situation were doing, Rocky seemed to be thinking “What a rookie!!” A thought bubble nearly appeared over the top of his head which read “Man, these new guys don’t know anything!”
As the years have passed, I have had many opportunities to watch rookies make stupid mistakes, each time thinking to myself “Geez, what a bonehead mistake that was”. The memory of this event however, where even the police K9 on scene was keenly aware of my blundering, has always brought me back reality about how I once did something even worse.
They say the handler transmits information down the lead to the dog, so if the handler is nervous, scared, happy or angry, the dog will pick up on that immediately. I do wonder if Rocky picked up on Darren’s feelings on my actions or if Rocky was able to come to his own conclusions about my stupidity.
Now that I know Rocky’s story, I suspect the latter to be true.