Let “Ruff” Win

Emily Eppens

I had never seen so much drool.

Frothy white saliva blanketed the front of the room in gooey stringy ooze. A few of the senior citizen residents stepped back a few steps and stared at the display in disgust, but most laughed and clapped in blissful delight.

Northcrest community residents gathered in a meeting room in the basement of their  neighborhood church, curiously eying the gigantic animal and his partner, who was adorned in a khaki colored sheriff’s office uniform. He appeared to be in his mid-thirties, with blue eyes and the remnants of sandy colored hair. He smiled but kept a calm demeanor, though the pride in his eyes was hard to miss. It was a look I eventually became accustomed to; though Dallas Wingate had been a K-9 officer with the Boone County Sheriff’s Office for eight years I never witnessed the fervor and love he had for his job dwindle. He took a pride in what he did.

The furry giant stood still chomping his prize before shaking and more slobber flew.

The perpetrator of the foamy scene was the largest German Shepherd I had ever seen. Sable colored with a predominately black face and one hundred pounds of pure muscle mass; the enormous brute gleefully chomped on the yellow rubber ball in his mouth not for a moment realizing he was the reason for the laughter. His brown eyes never once left Wingate his trainer and partner. Bandit had been a K-9 officer for his entire life. His training began as a puppy.

Demonstrations, or “demos” as Wingate referred to them, were a fairly common occurrence for the doggy duo frequenting one or two per month. The demos served as an entertaining as well as educational experience for the audiences informing them of the tactics and day job of a K-9 officer. The demo he put on at the church that evening was all part of the job.

For Bandit though, the job took on an entirely different purpose. Throughout the demonstration Wingate informed the audience of the abilities Bandit had been taught since he began four years ago.

For Wingate the track and chase might end in bringing a bad guy to justice, but for Bandit it meant a chance to play with the object of all his doggy spit glory – his yellow rubber ball.

“It’s absolutely amazing to see what [the dog] can do,” said Don Hotchkiss, a resident of Northcrest and a member of the Golden K Kiwanis, an energetic group of senior citizens who serve the community. Hotchkiss invited Wingate to Northcrest after seeing a demo at a Kiwanis meeting. I don’t think he stopped grinning during the whole presentation; his watery blue eyes capturing every moment of the presentation.

“There’s a no pet policy at Northcrest, and I think people miss that. This presentation is wonderful,” he said.

Wingate began the presentation with a slideshow telling the residents about the Boone K-9 program and the dogs.

“Why K-9? Well, dogs are a more effective and efficient search tool,” Wingate said. “When tracking a person of interest or searching a vehicle or building dogs are able to get the job done in half the time it could take [humans]. They provide protection to officers and save the agency money. The K-9 program does not make money from its program however,” he added.

When searching for the ideal canine for the job the Sheriff’s office looked to Europe. European bred dogs have less medical problems; a result of purer bloodlines. While many U.S. German Shepherds are prone to eye problems and blindness as they grow older European dogs have less. Wingate’s first dog, Tazer, is now retired and was bought from the Czech Republic. Bandit was born in Canada but from Czech bloodlines.

Many K-9 dogs are left unfixed because fixing the animals can cause them to calm down and not perform their jobs as effectively. Bandit, however, was an exception to the rule. His original owners tried to make him a house pet – not a lifestyle suited to the dog Wingate refers to as “bully”, “brute”, and “badass.” After devouring a family hamster, Bandit was taken to the pound to be put down before the officer discovered him.

“He’s a 100-pound dog with an extreme drive to track,” Wingate said. “He’s a busy dog. He’s not a good house pet.”

Even though Bandit resides in a kennel-run area at the Wingate home, he does not interact with the family.

“He’s high energy, and he’s strictly a work dog. He has to know his place,” Wingate said.

After being paired with Bandit, the two attended a 15-week training school in Canada where they spent time learning how to track and scent-work together. While many K-9 dogs are taught commands in German, like the Des Moines K-9 unit, Bandit “speaks” English.

“English commands can be easier to remember when the stress-level is high,” said Wingate.

Bandit alone cost $4,500 a lower price than the normal $5,000 to $6,000 price of other police dogs since he is neutered. Training, food, and vet expenses came to a whopping $10,000 for a grand total of $14,500.

During a typical track, Bandit is put on a 30-foot long leash to give him the ability of a more accurate track. In addition, the leash acts as a protection. Wingate said if gunfire should happen it is better for the dog to go down than both the officer and the dog.

“If the dog gets shot, yeah, it’s really sad, but it’s better than one of the officers getting shot,” Wingate said.

During the track the dog is trained to scent-search for three things – human scent, secondary scent such as items dropped off the person, and ground disturbance. When the scent is strong, Bandit will walk in the suspect’s footprints; a theory tested by snow. Otherwise, the dog will still follow the trail but might be a few feet away from the actual line of travel.

Teaching K-9 dogs to speak English isn’t the only difference between K-9 Canadian schools and

K-9 U.S. schools.

Most U.S. trained dogs are known as apprehension dogs or “bite” dogs. When on a track, these dogs will go straight for a bite when the suspect is found. Canadian-trained dogs, like Bandit, are known as a bark and hold dog. When the suspect is found, Bandit will hold the suspect at bay while continuously barking until Wingate arrives with his toy.

Andrew Albaugh, a dispatcher for the Boone Police Department and sometimes Wingate’s demo assistant, demonstrated a track for the Northcrest residents by taking one of Bandit’s beloved possessions, his yellow rubber ball, and walking to the other side of the room. At Wingate’s command, “Zook!”, Bandit tracks Albaugh and barks and holds him at bay until Albaugh drops the toy for him.

“I was a little nervous the first time I demonstrated,” Albaugh laughs. “When a dog that big runs up to you, it’s scary.”


My Day with the Des Moines K-9 Unit

The Air Force hanger was filled with boxes of furniture and heavy-duty equipment. Everything was covered in a thick sheet of dust and I paid careful attention not to trip over the various shelves and pallets on the floor. I fell into step with Alycia Peterson, one of the four Des Moines K-9 officers I am following, as we wandered around inside the steel building.

“Hey, can you fit in here?” asked Tony Ballantini another Des Moines K-9 officer. Ballantini is the newest officer to the unit, transitioning from police officer to K-9 officer in 2014. Alongside him are K-9 officers Corey Miller and Ron Kouski.

Unlike Bandit, the Des Moines K-9 unit dogs were U.S. trained in New York – apprehension dogs.

The unit often invites other K-9 units in the area to train monthly. All K-9 units in Iowa are required to log 16 hours of training a month.

At the moment, the unit was busy searching the hanger on the Iowa Air National Guard Base in Des Moines for potential hiding spots. Finding a spot could be tricky; it had to be concealed enough for a person to hide without fear of getting bit by one of the dogs. Otherwise a giant marshmallow looking suit had to be worn, and there was no possibility of ever finding a hiding spot with bulky armor on.

“We want it to be challenging,” Kouski said.

The group cracked jokes and bickered off and on. I asked Peterson if she ever felt like the mother in the group of boys.

“Yeah sometimes, definitely,” she laughed recalling a time the guys locked Ballantini in a porta-potty and tipped it over. “It’s always interesting.”

Miller was elected to be the first “victim” of the exercise. We left the building for a few minutes to let him hide. Ballantini said the pause gave the person’s scent a chance to spread out; once released the dog had to do all the search work.

Titan, Ballantini’s dog, is a 2-year old pitch black and extremely playful German Shepherd. I had to chuckle to myself; his demeanor was much more friendly than Bandit’s brutish character. Never once had I been allowed to touch Bandit. “He’s not a cuddly dog,” Wingate would say. I was allowed to pet the Des Moines dogs when they were not working. While the team waited toys were thrown around for the dogs to chase.

Finally, Ballantini signaled for me to follow him. We walked down the hill to the hanger; Titan pulling us along. Ballantini had changed the spot of the dog’s leash. Where before it was connected to his collar it was now attached to his harness; a signal to the dog that he’s about ready to go to work.

Ballantini flings the door open.

“This is the police! Come out with your hands up or you will be bitten! I repeat; come out with your hands up or you will be bitten!”

He releases Titan into the hanger. The dog’s hackles raised, he began his search, nose to the ground. I tried to follow him, but Ballantini instructs me to stay back.

“Wouldn’t want him mistaking you for the suspect,” he said.

Titan runs around boxes and stands on his hind legs to sniff furniture. Pretty soon it’s easy to recognize the area of the room he is most interested in – the top right corner of the room. I can’t see Miller hiding anywhere, but Ballantini pokes my arm and points. Miller is standing on the top of the biggest shelf in the room; the corner Titan keeps returning to. He’s surrounded himself with wooden pallets and is carefully keeping an eye on the dog.

Titan paws the floor a bit impatient. He jumps onto a box and stands on his hind legs to look inside a tote full of furniture.


Titan’s head jerks left and up to the location of the sound immediately discovering Miller.

What was a friendly and playful dog suddenly turned into a savage beast. Growling, howling, and barking ensuing Titan runs to the bottom of the shelf and jumps as high as he can, trying in vain to reach Miller.

Miller, now standing with a grin on his face, lowers the toy prize of a canvas “arm” for Titan.

Titan leaps and sinks his teeth into his reward before turning to a forceful match of tug-of-war. Ballantini walks up to Titan and the toy and unclips it from the line where it was attached.

“It’s your turn!” Miller shouts climbing down from his hiding spot.

I watched the exercise about a half a dozen times. Every dog was different on their track. Jack, Peterson’s dog, and Bello, Miller’s dog, found the “suspect” fairly quickly. I offered to hide but after Kouski’s dog, Zak, didn’t bark when he found Ballantini but instead jumped up on the desk next to the shelf literally attempting to get to him, the unit thought better of it. Ballantini shot up really fast and backed up; cursing before throwing him the toy.

After tracking exercises wrapped up, the unit moved on to the second wave of the training – narcotics. While Bandit and a majority of the Des Moines dogs are cross trained, meaning they can track and narcotic search, other dogs are only trained in narcotics. Kelly Stuhr with the Des Moines neurotic department and Nick Frye, a K-9 officer with the Carlisle police department, both work with strictly narcotics only dogs.

Inside of the base office building the unit opens a case containing small baggies filled with various drugs – meth, marijuana and heroin. Throughout the rooms in the building, they hide the baggies – skipping a room here and there for a “blank” room. Stuhr’s dog, Blaze, starts first.

“Dope search!” Stuhr commanded.

Nose to the ground he sniffs his way through the first room paying special attention to shelves and drawers. After 30 seconds, he comes to a halt in front of a tool box. While most of the dogs are trained to be aggressive alerters and paw and bark at the spot when the narcotics are found, Blaze and Jack are taught to sit and point with their noses, a passive alert, a task Blaze performed now before receiving his toy.

All of them drooled. There was so much drool!

One-by-one the other dogs followed the drug-trodden maze. Through a weight room, a classroom, a tiny gym, the kitchen (the blank room) and the locker room. Usually the dogs found the scent in less than 30 seconds, though the locker room’s fan proved a difficulty for a couple of the dogs as the scent was pushed to the nearest corner of the room. Every time the dog was rewarded – usually very quickly. If the dogs were to get into the drugs they would be dead in a couple hours.

After the exercise, the unit proceeded to walk outside and throw toys for their dogs when Ballantini had an idea. He would put on the sleeve of the marshmallow suit and run out into the field next to the hangers and then have a dog chase him.

“Don’t you want to put on the entire suit, then?” I asked.

“You can’t run in the suit,” he responded.

The team didn’t hesitate after Ballantini got far enough away. Kouski yells out the warning and released Zak into the field. Using only his nose the dog moves straightforward until catching a whiff of Ballantini’s scent to the left of him. Making a wide curve he leaps and catches Ballantini by the marshmallow sleeve. The team roars with laughter. Ballantini gave the sleeve to the dog to satisfy his toy-craving before he could get all the way back to the group.

The School Search

The two squad vehicles lined up next to each other so they could meet at the driver’s side window. Wingate and I sit in one vehicle; John Sloter and his son in the other. The two men pass stories back and forth about the recent cases they have taken while laughing. I’ve become accustomed to this sort of jousting between officers, though Wingate never said so, I believed it’s a way to keep the tough parts of their jobs lighthearted – a coping mechanism.

We are parked in a storage house parking lot waiting for the other two officers to arrive before heading to Ogden High School for a seasonal dog search. Sloter worked at the Boone County Sheriff’s office along with Wingate and had brought Shocker, a near-retirement K-9 officer. Though Shocker was too old to track, he was still physically capable of using his nose for the search.

Realizing that every police dog I had come into contact with at that point was a German Shepherd I asked Wingate if the breed was required for the job. He replied that any breed of dog could be a police dog noting a King Charles Spaniel that was partnered with a friend.

“Look at it this way. A bad guy is a lot more likely to stop what they are doing if they hear a dog like Bandit barking or see him run up to them than they might with a smaller dog,” Wingate said. “German Shepherds also have long noses. The longer the nose, the better the sense of smell.”

Police dogs are often males as they have a stronger testosterone-level and as a result are more aggressive. However, Wingate remembered a now retired female Iowa K-9, who was one of the best police dogs in the nation.

A vehicle pulls up to my passenger-side window.

“Hey,” a gruff voice says eying me suspiciously. Officer Mike Frazier is from the Ogden Police Department. Not a K-9 officer himself, he accompanies Wingate and Sloter should they need any assistance. Just a couple minutes later, another squad vehicle pulls up to Frazier’s passenger window. It is K-9 officer Jack Williams from the Greene County Sheriff’s Office with his dog, Leo, in tow. Bandit growls at the intruder from the built-in kennel in Wingate’s squad car.

Everyone now present, the group drives to the high school meeting the new principal, Jen Peter, in front of the main entrance. She is wearing a blue top and jeans her short blond hair curled in ringlets.

She greets the officers as they give her a rundown of the drill. The task is simple, the officers enter the school and scent-search the lockers and gym lockers. Sloter and Shocker take the right side of the parking lot searching cars. Williams and Wingate split the school in half. While Wingate and Bandit search the right of the school, Williams and Leo take the left. If a dog alerts on a locker, the other dog is brought over to double check it. If the second dog alerts as well, Peter writes the locker number down on her clipboard.

It was entertaining to watch. Wingate would begin at the end of a series of lockers in front of Bandit. He then tapped the spot on the locker he wanted the dog to “check.” He would do this very quickly and run backwards; Bandit following and sniffing wildly. His nose resembles a jack hammer with short precise sniffs on the locker vents. Wingate moved his taps up and down so Bandit sniffs multiple points on the same locker.

Right half of the first floor, clear.

The second floor is the same until about half-way through. Bandit pauses his jack hammering and spends a little extra time on one of the lockers. Not an alert, Wingate pointed out, but something to keep in mind.

Meeting Williams and Leo back at the main entrance, Williams says that Leo alerted on one of the lockers on the left side of the school as well as a couple gym lockers. The two break for a few minutes to give the dogs’ sniffers a break before heading back in for round two. Sloter mentioned that

Shocker spent extra time on a truck out in the parking lot.

Leo went over Bandit’s problem locker – no alert. Clear.

“There might have been something there a while ago but long enough that Bandit didn’t alert,” Wingate said. “Or, he might have just smelled something that interested him. It’s why we go over it with two different dogs.”

Bandit showed the same signs Leo did on Leo’s problem locker; interested but not a full alert.

Peter jotted down the number to check later.

“My main goal is to protect these kids,” she said.

Outside, I accompanied Williams and Leo on checking the left side of the parking lot.

“Did you want to check the faculty lot?” asked Williams.

“Nah, not today,” Wingate answered. Though, he chuckled, he recalled a time he busted a teacher for having marijuana in their vehicle.

Leo was smaller than Bandit with rott markings, similar to a Rottweiler. Williams didn’t have him detail sniff every single car.

“He’s really good about picking up on scent,” Williams said. “If walk him in between cars, he’ll catch it if he smells dope.”

Driving over to the right side of the lot Leo double checks the truck Shocker was interested in.

“He’s going to be retired in the next month or two,” Sloter said. “He can’t get around like he used to.”

The gym lockers is where it got interesting. Going in for round three (police dog noses get tired after all that sniffing) Bandit searches the locker room. The first half of the search is essentially the same as the school lockers, but the second half required Bandit to stand on his hind legs to sniff the top lockers. The lockers had air vents on the sides connecting one locker to the other.

Williams and Frazier watch not saying a word. Nothing so far. The jack hammer keeps sniffing.

And then suddenly, alert.

Whining, pawing and barking, Bandit wildly displays in front of the lockers Leo had previously alerted on. The officers look and one another and grin.


We stand in the main office chatting about the upcoming office dress code change from summer to winter apparel. No one was looking forward to changing into long sleeves every day.

The door on the far side of the room opens. Five boys shuffle in; the owners of the lockers

Bandit had alerted on. Since the lockers were connected through vents, it was impossible to pinpoint the exact locker the scent was coming from.

The boys glance nervously at the officers.

“Isn’t it funny that they were talking when they came in but as soon as they saw us they shut

up?” Frazier grinned.

The group walked to the locker rooms in a way I can only describe as somber though the officers

joked through their teeth the whole way.

“Alright, here’s how this is going to work,” Frazier said upon the group arriving in the boys’

locker room. “He’s (motioning to Wingate) going to check your lockers. He’ll search them and then if

all’s clear you go back to class. Nobody here is guilty of anything at this point; it’s just for your safety.


The boys nod.

One-by-one the boys open their lockers for Wingate. With black gloves, he searches every duffel

bag, shoe and shoulder pads he comes across. Four of the boys look bored; ready to go back to class.

The fifth fidgets looking up at the officers, to Peter, to the exit, and back down into his lap.

Wingate reaches his locker and the boy seems to sit on the edge of his seat.

All seems well until Wingate reaches his duffel bag. As he searches through it he feels something

in one of the pockets. The boy murmurs something.

“What’s that?” Wingate asked.

“It’s in the – never mind,” the boy collapses back into silence.

Wingate carefully feels all the pockets and examines the crevices of the bright orange duffel bag.

He finds a bottle of Tylenol, which he opens and confirms the medicine is what the label promotes.

After the boys are released back to class, Wingate suggests Peter keep an eye on the boy as his

behavior was very strange. In addition, he suggests the dogs come back the next month.

“The kids expect one search every season. They think they can relax after the seasonal search,”

he said. “Throwing them off their game might get the best results.”

The Patrol and the Man

From the beginning he was clear.

“Just because we go on patrol, doesn’t mean anything is going to happen.”

I didn’t care. I wanted to go anyway.

That night, as usual, when I walked up to Wingate’s vehicle Bandit greets me with a series of

vicious growls and barks.

“Oh what a big baby,” I tell him. Wingate grins.

Tonight I was going to go on patrol with Wingate; a normal night on the job. While Wingate’s

work hours are very flexible, he normally works nights Monday through Thursday from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m.

“When do you sleep?” I ask.

“Oh, I usually get home and sleep until 8 or 9,” he said. “Then my daughters wake up and my

wife goes to work, so I don’t get a lot after that. It’ll be nice when my youngest starts attending school.”

He smiles.

The patrol covers the entirety of Boone County, all 635* (I checked this with Wingate, he said

635) square miles. On a normal night, Wingate does the regular traffic stops and aids in tracking if the

need presents itself.

Shortly after we started out, Wingate receives a call from an officer in Madrid about a man

sleeping on a couch in a nursing home. Approximately 20 minutes later we arrive on the scene; the

suspect already in the back of the officer’s car.

“I have a drug I can’t identify,” said Officer Bryan Olmstead. He knows Wingate carries the tools

to perform a drug test.

We go upstairs to the scene of the evidence. A pen with its head screwed off and a mysterious

piece of tin foil is laying on the couch among various other common pocket objects.

“Just from the smell I can tell you it’s probably meth,” Wingate said.

He takes a test vial and strains the contents of the pen through it.

“It has a sickly chemical smell. Definitely meth. We’ll wait for a positive test though.”

Luckily, the suspect was very cooperative according to Olmstead.

“Hey, at least you got to see something exciting happen tonight!” Olmstead chuckles and mentions that the suspect’s car is out in the parking lot.

After a few minutes, the substance in the test vial crystalizes. A positive for meth. The two officers walk out to the man’s car. Using their flashlights, clothes, a TV, stereo speakers and a blanket can be seen through the windows. Homeless, Wingate concludes.

As we leave the scene, I ask him why he didn’t walk Bandit around the car.

“I would have if he asked me to,” he said. “It’s really his call on what to do.”

We continue patrolling and chatting as the night goes on. I learn that Wingate used to be in the Coast Guard and had worked as a DNR officer in the city of Madrid and a state medical examiner before getting the job with the Sheriff’s office. He is the father of two girls, ages 4 and 10. He’s a sucker for husky puppies and has two house dogs at home not including his retired police dog, Tazer, who lives under the deck in his backyard.

“He’s still a police dog,” Wingate said. “I’ll let him in the house during the day, but he sleeps outside normally.”

We stop for Bandit’s relief.

“It’s like taking a party girl to work – drink, pee, drink.” Wingate said.

Back on the road, I ask him if he ever gets scared when on the job.

“You never let your guard down,” he said. “You don’t want to be fearful the whole time, but you have to stay alert. Things can go from zero to 100 really fast.”

Wingate recalls a call a fellow officer received. It was a phone harassment call, so the officer was to go to the house of the harasser and tell him to knock it off with the phone calls. As soon as the door opened the man pulled a gun on the officer.

“Like I said, things can go from zero to 100 real quick. You just never know.”

We pull up to a building called the County Maintenance Facility in Madrid and get out. All Boone County officers have access to these buildings.

“Let’s hide some dope for Bandit in here.”

We walk into a room that resembles my dad’s garage – books, a stuffed reindeer, a map and a golden shovel clutter the walls. Vehicles line the building in garage- like fashion.

Wingate pulls out a black case and opens it. Inside were baggies full of popular Iowa dope: meth, heroin and marijuana. He hands me a bag filled with a white crystally substance.

“Let’s hide this for Bandit,” he said. I stand perplexed at the foreign bag of substance in my hand before following. “Oh yeah, you’re holding about $5000 of pure crystal meth right now.”

I stop and stare at the bag in my hand. A slow grin makes its way to my face.

“Wait until I tell my parents about this!”

He laughs.

We hide the dope in a tool box in the back of the building. As we wait for the scent to spread out, Wingate shows me his self-made first aid kit should he ever find himself and Bandit in an unfortunate situation.

Typical first aid kit paraphernalia was included along with more heavy-duty bandages. Wingate packed first aid not only for himself but for Bandit too.

“If Bandit were to get into the dope, I can inject him with this,” he said showing me a syringe with a label that read: Naloxone hydrochloride. “It reverses the effects of opioids – dope.”

An IV and lung inflator came out of the bag, and then a muzzle.

“If I get hurt and he doesn’t, he’s not going to let anyone near me which is bad. You have to deal with an extremely angry dog,” he said. “So if I’m able, I have a muzzle so whoever comes to help can do so safely. Nobody ever thinks of that; you gotta think about this ahead of time before it happens.”

Now about 15 minutes since we hid the dope we go get Bandit from the vehicle. He immediately goes into work mode sniffing everything and searching. Wingate hands me a towel tied at both ends.

Bandit’s prize for when he finds the dope.

Bandit didn’t fail. Though the drawer was completely closed, he alerted and pawed at the exact drawer the drugs were in. I give him his toy quickly to prevent him from tearing the whole toolbox apart.

“He knows he’s paid to be a badass,” Wingate said.

In the short amount of time I’ve known Wingate the pride of what he does is reflected. The small but subtle smile inches across his face whenever Bandit completes a task. He takes a bit of a joy in being the only person Bandit really likes.

“I’m his friend, you’re not,” Wingate told me not long after our first meeting. It was true.

Everything Bandit did was for his toy, but I sensed he did it for Wingate’s praise as well.

Though Bandit and Wingate’s partnership is strong I often caught Wingate reminiscing about his years working with Tazer, his first K-9 partner. I would catch pieces of information about the legendary police dog. He performed his job well but Wingate described him as being much friendlier than Bandit.

He was a dog he could bring to the office for other officers to enjoy.

For all the years he had known Tazer, he only remembers the dog laying down once.

“To sit or lay down in front of someone is a sign of submission,” Wingate said. “Tazer wasn’t a pet and he knew it.”

The one time he caught him laying down the dog was sick. Wingate snapped a photo.

After all the stories I had heard about Tazer he captured my interest. When Wingate suggested we stop by his Madrid home and visit him, I was more than ecstatic as much as I tried to downplay it.

We pulled up to a cozy home with a detached garage. Wingate opened the side gate to the backyard. The yard is split into two sections – the right half is Bandit’s living quarters and the left was the free-for-all.

Bandit’s quarters are composed of a shelter under an awning attached to the back of the garage and a space for running.

“I don’t let him and Tazer interact very often. One time Bandit bit Tazer,” Wingate said.

As I look around the yard, a set of soft eyes appear from under the deck. The dog slowly pulls himself up and looks at me, quizzically. His walk resembled how an old man hobbles– reminding me that Wingate told me that Tazer had injured his leg badly while on duty years back. The old dog’s head was still tilted to the side. He totters over and sniffs me. His head is huge compared to his body. His thick winter coat had already grown in.

“Hi there, Tazer.”

Wingate ruffles the dog’s head, happy to see him. Tazer totters around the yard in what I can only assume would be a run if his leg allowed.

After his retirement, Wingate said Tazer was confused and upset when he wouldn’t take him to work at first. But he grew to enjoy his retirement.

“My daughter found one of his old collars the other day and asked me to put it on him,” Wingate said. “I did and he looked at me like he was thinking, “Hell no. I’m retired now. Don’t expect me to work.’”

As we went to leave, Tazer watched us walk to the door. As the door shuts, I catch a glimpse of the dog crawling back underneath the deck.