First person: It’s a dog’s life

Clovis Police Canine Officer Stephen Borders has had the same partner for nearly two years. Before they can hit the two year mark, Renzo, a Belgian Malinois, is retiring next week because of health issues and his partner is going to miss him.

Paw-tner: Renzo is a Belgian Malinois which is a cross of three breeds. They are supposed to be faster, stronger, more aggressive, and more intelligent than a regular German Shepherd. Typically, whatever the task is they’ve been assigned, they love it. They do it and they won’t stop no matter what. A German Shepherd normally gets bored. These guys don’t get bored. At all. We’re a team. Our role is dual. He is a narcotics dog, he can sniff for various narcotics. Also, he is what we call an apprehension dog. If a police officer gets in a fight or anything like that, Renzo can help out. He can go from 0 to 35 mph in about 30 feet. It’s unreal. We’re also on the SWAT team. His purpose is the same on the SWAT team. It’s a little more dangerous, the stakes are a little bit higher. He can wear a tactical vest and go in and take care of business if we need him to.

Doggie retirement: He has a disease of his spine called spondelosis. It’s a cousin to osteoarthritis. He has five disks in his backside close to his tail that are fusing together. Generally, it’s not a disease that’s considered painful. In Renzo’s case it is painful. It’s gotten to the point now in my patrol unit, he can’t turn around. If he’s facing one way, he gets out that way because he can’t go the other way. He’s in a lot of pain so he’s through.

Decision time: They’ve offered to buy another dog. These dogs typically cost around $10,000 to $12,000, plus $6,000 to send me to training and time away from the police department which is almost two and a half months. So we lose a man on the SWAT team, a guy on the street and a dog. We have two dogs and this’ll leave only one dog on the streets. They’ve offered that to me and in the next couple of weeks, I’ll make that decision. The training is one of the hardest we can do. It’s non-stop daily getting beat up by dogs. It’s a task, it really is, so I’ll make that decision pretty soon. But the department plans on getting another dog if I take it or not. If I don’t take it, someone else will test for it and they’ll get it.

Doggie resume: Renzo has found numerous narcotics in vehicles. We were the first team that arrived at the jail when we had that big escape in August of last year. He found the guy we actually found after the escape and alerted us to the rest of the guys who escaped. Right now, I don’t have a number of narcotics he’s found in vehicles and things of that nature. These dogs have probably stopped more crime from happening by being around. If a guy’s going to make an arrest on a warrant service, we can roll by and Renzo will bark and let them know that he’s there. If they had planned on running or fighting police officers, they don’t. Because they know that he’s going to come out and take care of business. Statistics show officer involved shootings went down 25 percent when San Diego got their dogs five or seven years ago. We can’t measure here what he’s kept from happening but as an officer on the street, whenever I roll by or the guys see Renzo get out and he sits there and he’s ready to take care of business, it’s soothing for these guys. When we show up they smile. It’s a different story when the dog shows up because he loves his job.

Officer’s best friend: I wasn’t sure I wanted the dog to begin with and then I took it as a challenge. But after having him, I can’t imagine working without him. I have a partner with me everywhere I go. Everytime I go to a call, even though I don’t get the dog out, I have a button on my belt I can push and the door pops open on my unit and this dog comes and finds me. I know in the back of my mind that if I get into anything I have help right there. I don’t have to find my radio and wait for someone to show up. He’s there. And that is incalculable. In my opinion, every officer should have a dog. They’re a life-saver a mind-saver. My job is less stressful. Plus, I can open up my kennel, he sticks his head through there and I can pet him, you know. It’s amazing.