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RNC bionic dog even has a blog


December 1, 2014
By Danette Dooley

Gunner, a police dog in training with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, has quite a following on the force’s Facebook page.

The young German Shepherd, with a little help from RNC Cst. Geoff Higdon, cleverly writes about his experiences training for his new career. The journal is a unique way to take advantage of social media to let the public know what’s happening in the force’s canine unit.

Gunner was eight weeks old when he arrived at the RNC in July from the RCMP kennels in Innisfail, Alberta. His training came to a quick halt in October when Gunner broke his paw and ended up having surgery and a metal plate and screws inserted in his leg. Rather than explaining what happened I’ll let Gunner tell you. Here’s his blog about his accident:

<Hey everybody, it’s been a while and I have so much to fill you in on. So, back on October 6th me and Dad did my first ever “Big Dog Training Week” with the other RNC Police Dogs and their Dads. This is an annual event where they all get together from across Newfoundland to do some advanced training. We were doing lots of tracks and checking cars, and we were even doing searches for drugs and explosives. Well the big dogs did that, their noses are specially trained for those things. I got to hang with the big dogs and hear about their stories and adventures, they are awesome! So all this was the Monday of the training week. Then, me and Dad went home and relaxed after having some well deserved supper.

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Around 8:45 pm Dad took me outside to use the lawn (hee hee) and we were playing with my ball. That’s when it happened! I jumped up to get my ball and I knew I was going to miss catching it, but I’m hard-headed so instead of just letting it go, I twisted my body in the air to try to catch it, and fell on my back paw. I was yelping in pain and dad had to pick me up and cuddle me for about 30 minutes to get me to stop crying. Dad checked me over and there were no signs of any breaks so he took me in and iced it for the night.

The next morning Dad took me right away to see Dr. (Jens) Martin at St. John’s Vet (he’s an amazing doctor!) He checked me over and took some pictures in some magic box that CAN SEE THOUGH ME!!! (Dad says it’s called an “X-Ray.”) Dr. Martin came back and gave us the bad news. I had a fracture to my paw ( Dad was so upset I thought he was going to pass out – he’s such a softy!

They gave me some special treats that made the pain go away, and then we were off to see a lovely doctor, Trina Bailey, who specializes in fixing silly puppies who land on their paw after missing a ball. When we got to the clinic in Paradise to meet with Dr. Bailey she said I was going to still be able to be a police dog with some TLC! I had a “surgery” the next day on my paw. Dad calls me a “Bionic Police Puppy” because they had to put a metal plate and some screws in my leg – which is totally cool!

Dad picked me up a couple of days later and he was shocked to see me walking like nothing had happened; he’s such a worry wart, but that’s his nature. The doctor told Dad to keep me in my room (“crate”) at all times when I wasn’t with him. So it was basically a lazy weekend. We stayed home and cuddled and watched K9 movies like Starsky and Hutch.

The next week, Dad took me out to Flatrock where the police cadets were doing their “Gallows Trek” adventure. While we were there Dad took me for a short walk to stretch my legs and use the lawn. While we were doing that, guess what I found! A set of KEYS that were from a break and enter and attempted car theft! Dad was so proud of me; he said I’m tough as nails since I had a broken paw and I was still solving crimes.

We went back to see the doctor on Thursday and I’m doing great. I’m allowed short five minute walks and some weaving stuff for tracks but no jumping, which makes me sad because I LOVE TO JUMP!

I want to give a BIG shout out to the amazing work of both Dr. Martin at St. John’s Vet and Dr. Bailey at Paradise Animal Hospital who saved my career as a potential police dog with the RNC! Dad says if it wasn’t for their great work he would have cracked up” – whatever that means! Talk to you all soon!>

Gunner’s “Dad” is RNC Cst. Bill Kennedy – a cop whose career aspiration has always been to become a dog handler. It’s a position he’s been preparing himself for since he became a police officer 16 years ago.

The Newfoundland-native spent the first seven years of his career with the Calgary Police Service.
Because of his passions for the pups, he also helped train Calgary’s canines – all the while hoping that he’d get a position with the canine unit if and when one became available.

“I’ve always wanted to be a dog handler. I tried several times while in Calgary. They have 18 dogs on the street there. It’s a very sought after position and the competitions are extremely competitive. A couple of times I got close but I never made the line up – and by that time I was ready to come back to Newfoundland.”

Both Kennedy and his wife Tina are from Newfoundland. Kennedy jumped at the opportunity to return to his home province nine years ago and continue with his policing career.

A use of force instructor, Kennedy works in the force’s training section but spends as much time as he can with the dog handlers and their four-legged partners: laying tracks, searching for stolen property, doing building searchers, playing the bad guy and other work to ensure both he and Gunner will be ready if a position becomes available within the canine unit.

“When I first got Gunner, and I know I’m a bit biased, I could see something special in him right away. The second he arrived, we started socializing him. He was going through the airport, up the elevators, doing age and size appropriate tasks. He never showed any fear or signs of uncertainty in any way. Every situation and every environment that you could think of that a police service dog would have the potential to have to go into, that’s where we’d put Gunner.”

Gunner has been healing quickly. Water physio has helped a great deal in the dog’s recovery, Kennedy said.

By the time this story gets to print, Gunner will likely be back practicing his tracking and checking buildings, woods and any other place a bad guy can hide.

Kennedy will still be focused on his job with the training unit while spending all the time he can ensuring that Gunner will be ready if he ever gets the call to go to the RCMP Police Dog Service Training Centre in Innisfail for the intensive program. A program that, for the potential dog handler and dog, means leaving home for several months. A program that Kennedy has been eyeballing for almost two decades.

The RNC has three dog handlers in St. John’s and one in Corner Brook. If the unit expands, Kennedy will be among those vying for the coveted position. He realizes, however, that he won’t be the only one looking to join.

If Kennedy doesn’t get the job, Kennedy says Gunner will have to adapt to a new master and handler.

“Police officers will often raise puppies that then go to another handler. As sad as it is for me to say – within a month Gunner would be attached to whoever has been feeding him and loving him. I would miss him like crazy but as much as I love that dog, if I’m not the one that gets to do it with him, I need to know that he gets to go on to become a police dog because he’s born for it.”

To keep track of Gunner’s adventures visit the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary’s Facebook page or go to http://gunnersjournal.wordpress.com.

dooley@blueline.ca