When you get out of the FTO Program, and start being a cop, you look down the road, and try to decide what you want to do next.
My good friend Mitch decided to go to the dogs.
About the same that I was getting sergeants stripes sewn on my BDU’s, Mitch was in Texas, getting trained with his new canine partner.
The first time I saw the two of them together was when Mitch was coming down the car ramp into the congested parking lot area at Mission Station.
An Event at Mission Station
Out of the corner of my eye I thought, What’s wrong with this picture? Mitch was large enough in stature that he could have been a professional football or rugby player.
But the dog…
The shoulders of this pure white German-Alsatian Shepherd came up to Mitch’s waist, and his deep green eyes would never miss a fly on a wall at 50 yards.
Go find a Smithsonian Magazine illustration of an Ice Age Dire Wolf if you need a visual reference.
All that the dog needed was Mammoths to chase, and Saber Tooth cats to annoy.
Mitch and I go way back, so as he called out my name, and headed towards me, I deliberately kept my hands in plain view, in a “welcome doggy” type posture. I’d had big dogs all my life and knew how to behave when being introduced.
A few sniffs here and there, including the obligatory sudden cold hard nose into my crotch, was all that was needed for me to be accepted into the Mitch Pack.
Inside, ranks were lined up and policed for propriety based on seniority. When we all saluted the new commanding officer, I saw Mitch mutter something to his partner, and I swear to Buddha if that dog didn’t raise a massive right paw to his eyebrow in mimic with all the other 90 cops in the Assembly Room.
The Captains Command Staff saw this, and almost died of laughter and wide faced grins. The new captain gave us an inkling of his personality when he glowered at Mitch and walked off the podium without returning anyone’s salute.
Mitch was called into the captain’s office to be formally introduced, and so was I to have my transfer papers signed off.
The captain asked Mitch, “What’s the name of your beast officer?”
Mitch said: “I’ve named him Con,” to honor former Chief of Police Cornelius Murphy, who recently passed away. I believe he was a classmate of yours’s sir?”
Captain: “That’s a proper sentiment. The choice of name is approved.”
Me: “Con??? You hated that guy. He tried to suspend you twice.”
Mitch: “Different spelling”
Me: “K H A N ? …. The Murderous Mongolian war-lord who killed millions without mercy?”… “GENGHIS KHAN ???”
Mitch: “The same …. You know your history.”
Karma Is a Circle
The famous San Francisco newspaper columnist, Herb Caen had coined the term “Bagdad by the Bay” to honor our beautiful views, and quaint neighborhoods. The north slope of Potrero Hill held fast to that image: Old Victorians, Sunset Era row houses, and views of the city that you saw in just about every new car commercial.
The south slope was different: This was more like “Beirut by the Bay.”
This was rows upon rows of World War Two former military barracks, “improved” for use as low-income housing for the city’s forgotten and generally ignored welfare recipients.
These Projects were my new assignment, so when a “Hot Prowl” (burglary in progress) came out on the police radio for a ritzy new condo complex on the north side, I “jumped the call,” and put myself and my squad on it.
On the Scene
Veterans all, my 6-man squad had a tight perimeter in place by the time I got there.
A very distraught 20-something gal met us at the front door, and told us; She had come home, and “saw street criminals shadow in her kitchen.”
Per protocol, I called for a canine unit to help in the search.
Of course, Mitch and Khan showed up in a flurry of skidding tires and blaring classical music from the canine van’s radio.
(I knew from a shared history, that Mitch loved “Ride of the Valkyries,” and played it enroute to hot calls.)
Mitch handed me the “Immunity Form” which had to be signed by the person requesting the dog search. In prior searches, dogs had broken things, ripped curtains, and in one case nipped the homeowner who tried to pet the “nice doggie.” This form kept the SFPD (and me, and Mitch, and Khan) from being sued or such.
The gal scrawled her name on the form, and we were set to go:
We Open the Door
Call out loudly in English and Spanish: “Police Department—DOG unit”.
“The dog will bite…come out NOW.”
Mitch gave a well-rehearsed and trained hand signal and Khan went (verbally) nutz.
Mitch said: “Lady, are you SURE no-one is supposed to be here?”
Lady: “No, I live alone, and anyone inside must be a rapist or worse!”
We followed Khans search by the sounds of breaking glass and destroyed fragile furniture.
Suddenly the barking and banshee-like howling took on a different tone, and a grinning ear-to-ear Mitch punched me in the arm and said: “We got him.”
Khan was sharpening his claws by trying to (almost) successfully dig through a thick wooden closet door.
When he heard a command from Mitch, he went instantly to a parade rest stance with a huge drooling tongue as a counter point.
We all drew our guns, except Mitch who took a solid two-legged stance behind Khan, while holding the thick leather leash tightly.
I banged on the door, and told the yet unseen burglar that he had 10 seconds to come out, or the dog would be coming in.
A short millisecond later, a very frightened looking yuppie crawled out of the closet, soiled pants, and all.
Khan lunged, and it was a very good thing that Mitch had braced himself.
All I heard from the burglar was “please, please, please, please…”
The Lady of the house appeared, and looking down at our catch of the day said in a nearly fainting voice:
“Oh MY God, that’s my boyfriend!”
In a controlled, yet angry manner, I then established that the BF had a door key, was not supposed to be there, and had come over to “surprise” his Lady love.
Khan had calmed down and was watching quizzically to what I was doing:
Catch and release per policy.
Mitch had suspiciously been whispering to Khan, and I thought that now was a good time for new Sergeant Me to vacate the scene.
As Mitch walked by the sitting boyfriend, he paused for only about 3 seconds, which of course was the exact amount of time it took Khan to lift his right hind leg, and completely drown our hero in very stinky warm dog piss.
I found that even when trying to stifle body-racking suppressed laughter, it’s possible to walk slowly down three flights of stairs (clutching my copy of the now all-important immunity form), jump into my double-parked Crown Vic, and burn rubber elsewhere.