Paw Patrol

“He’s been a huge benefit to me — he’s helped me become a better officer.”

– Officer Kyle Dennis

By Lucy Morris
Photography by Lanewood Studio

We all know dog is man’s best friend. But what about when a charismatic canine is also man’s business partner, protector, and closest confidant? For K9 officers, the bond between dog and handler is unbreakable, unmistakable, and unending.
We woofed and waxed poetic with these local heroes to learn more about what it’s like to live and work with their precocious pups. After apprehending criminals, searching buildings, and tracking narcotics and explosives, these hard-working hounds can make the switch from business to play, enjoying their fair share of fetching balls, frolicking with family, and fawning over belly rubs.

Chattanooga Police Department

Officer Lucas Timmons & Burt

After attending K9 trainings on his own time, Officer Timmons fell in love with the idea of working for the K9 unit at the Chattanooga Police Department. For the first few years, he worked with several different dogs to fill the department’s needs, but two and a half years ago, he was finally paired with his own Belgian Malinois puppy partner, Burt. The two best friends have been working together ever since to keep the city safe. 

CS: What is Burt’s most unique trait?

LT: He’s a goofball. I always tell him, ‘One of us has to be the serious one, and I was here first.’

CS: What would you say has been your career highlight as a team?

LT: This year Burt and I participated in the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA) National Detection Trials in New Jersey. We took 3rd place in vehicles detection and 9th place overall out of 56 dogs at Nationals. Because of that, he’s one of only 56 dogs certified nationally with USPCA in narcotics detection.

CS: What’s your favorite moment with Burt so far?

LT: I’m proud any time we get called and do our jobs well. When we can help other officers go home safely at night, it feels like a highlight every time. I always tell people, ‘He’s not just my dog; he’s the police department’s dog, and he’s there to help everyone.’

CS: How did you and Burt bond?

LT: Burt and I hit it off right away. I was really excited to get him. I had switched around dogs quite a few times based on different needs for the department, so I had never had a dog that was brand new. It was exciting to get a dog that would be my own. With his high energy, my love of dogs, and the fact that we both love working, it was easy.

CS: Does Burt have any funny quirks?

LT: He likes to jump on the back of my car and just stare at me. The year before last, we hosted the K9 trials here. It’s always stressful because you have a bunch of stuff going on, and you’re trying to get ready. So we pull up and get out of the car, and he just hops up on the back of the car and looks at me like, ‘Come on, let’s be silly!’ It helped calm the stress.

CS: What’s the best part of the job?

LT: Everything. I get to be a police officer, which I love to do, and I get to have a dog with me while I do it. I have a partner I can always count on.

Paw Patrol – Police Dogs and their Owners
Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office

Deputy Andrew Voss & Nero

Throughout his six years with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Voss has been recognized on multiple occasions for his hard work and willingness to go above and beyond to complete a job well done. And as a K9 trainer and instructor, he’s able to instill these admirable qualities in other officers learning the ropes. In March, he was partnered with Nero, a two-year-old Belgian Malinois whose apprehension skills are bar none, and the two have been taking a serious bite out of crime ever since.

CS: What is Nero’s most unique trait?

AV: He is an exceptionally driven canine that is committed to getting the job done at all costs. With Nero, it’s either 100% or nothing. He is a very determined and ambitious canine.

CS: What would you say has been your career highlight as a team?

AV: While we’ve only been partners for seven months, his training has already been tested in several incidents involving high-risk apprehensions and large-scale drug seizures. I think each one of those would be considered a highlight.

CS: What’s your favorite moment with Nero so far?

AV: As a K9 trainer and instructor, one of the most satisfying moments I have had is watching Nero’s training and superhuman abilities come together in a perfect blend of power and skill. He is incredible at what he does.

CS: How did you and Nero bond?

AV: Working together, continuously training, and living with me fulltime helps to bond us together.

CS: Does Nero have any funny quirks?

AV: He whistles. My family calls him ‘Whistle Britches.’

CS: How do you and Nero work together as a team?

AV: As a team, each of us have specialized training and instincts. When we put those together, we are able to accomplish extraordinary things and fulfill a vital role in the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. It would be almost impossible for me as a K9 Deputy to do my job without the expertise and special abilities Nero possesses. He is not only my partner, but my friend.

Cleveland Police Department

Officer Jake Varnell & Torq

Officer Varnell has been with the Cleveland Police Department for eight years. He had always envisioned joining the K9 unit, and two years ago his wish came true when he got paired up with the 1-year-old Dutch Shepherd that would soon be known as Torq. Since then, this dynamic duo has hit the ground running with a focus on narcotics, tracking, and apprehension. 

CS: What is Torq’s most unique trait?

JV: Definitely how loving he is. That and his ‘derp’ face.

CS: How would you describe Torq’s personality?

JV: He has an amazing on/off switch. He’s calm until I give him a call out, and then he can immediately transition into work mode. But when he’s at home, he’s cuddly and he likes to lay around and play ball. That’s probably his favorite thing to do besides hanging out with my son, Maverick.

CS: What would you say has been your career highlight as a team?

JV: We’ve been part of multiple large drug seizures. Last November, we were working with the D.A., and Torq found 16 ounces of methamphetamine.

CS: Does Torq do anything that drives you crazy? What drives him crazy?

JV: The amount of slobber drives me insane [laughs]. For him, his pet peeve is being left in the car. Any time I get out and don’t let him out, he gets upset.

CS: What’s your favorite moment with Torq so far?

JV: He always hugs my son – that’s his go-to thing every day. He’ll walk up to Maverick and wrap his paw around him and give him a hug. It shows me he’s going to protect my family, and that means a lot to me.

CS: How did you and Torq bond?

JV: It was a pretty easy process. I got him in August of 2016. We took him home, played ball with him, and ever since, he’s been my buddy. My wife and I got to name him, and we went through a bunch of names that just didn’t seem to fit until she said, ‘What about Torq?’ We knew immediately that that was the one. It just suits him.

CS: What’s the best part of the job?

JV: It’s really special to always have that ultimate partner that would sacrifice his life to save mine – and to know he would. Torq is great with kids too, so it’s fun to see them interact.

Red Bank Police Department

Officer Kyle Dennis & Harry

Officer Dennis and his K9 companion, Harry, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois, went from strangers to best friends in a matter of days. The two partnered up last October, when the Red Bank Police Department reinstated the K9 program that had been previously phased out, and their bond is unmistakable. A dual-purpose pup, Harry and Officer Dennis spend their days focused on narcotics detection, tracking, and apprehension.

CS: What is Harry’s most unique trait?

KD: He’s quite large for a Belgian Malinois. They’re usually about 50 pounds, and he’s 80. He’s also super goofy and playful.

CS: What’s the best part about working with Harry?

KD: He’s been a huge benefit to me – he’s helped me become a better officer. We get to do cool stuff and go everywhere together. It’s opened a lot of doors to meeting other officers and doing new things. Plus, it’s just nice to be able to look back and have him there.

CS: How have things changed since Harry came on board at the Red Bank Police Department?

KD: When I first started, the crime in the area was high, but it’s been going down, which we’re very proud of. We used to have to use the county or city’s dogs, so having him has been a huge asset. We have a great relationship with the other departments in the area, so it’s nice to be able to help them out too, when they need it.

CS: Does Harry do anything that drives you crazy? What drives him crazy?

KD: He hates when people come up to the car – he’s very protective of the car. He has to bark at them no matter what. Then for me, he’ll poke his head up against the grate to get petted and scratched all night. He’ll also pull stuff from the front into the kennel. I’ve lost several hats that way.

CS: What’s your favorite moment as a team?

KD: The best time I had with him was up in Indiana when it was just me and him training. We didn’t know anyone, so it was just the two of us driving around and hanging at the lake. Then at work, whenever he tracks a bad guy and finds them, that’s always exciting.

CS: Do you think there are any misconceptions about K9s?

KD: I think people think it’s easy for them to just turn it on and off. He goes through some stressful situations just like people do, so it’s nice for him to get to come home and play. He needs some vacation too sometimes.

Bradley County Police Department

Lieutenant Mario Santos & Stosh

When it came time for Lieutenant Santos’ K9 partner, Max, to retire earlier this year, he was sure he didn’t want to get another dog. But after two weeks without a partner riding along in the backseat, he knew that simply wouldn’t do. Fast forward to the first time he met Stosh, a German Shorthair Pointer puppy full of energy and drive and already trained in six different drug odors, this K9 and traffic unit supervisor knew he’d met his match.

CS: How would you describe Stosh’s personality?

MS: I went from a cool and collected yellow lab to Stosh. He is 100 miles an hour. The slightest noise he hears, he’ll pop up his ear. They’re bred for hunting, so any little thing will pique his interest. His demeanor is great; he’s just fun to be around.

CS: What’s your favorite moment with Stosh so far?

MS: When we’re at work, it’s business. When we’re at home, he’s like a kid – a big 17-month-old kid. He always wants to be playing. He’s a jokester! He knows how to sneak out of his kennel. The other night I heard these feet coming up the steps, and there he was, sitting at the foot of the bed like, ‘I’m lonely, let’s play.’

CS: What is training like?

MS: Stosh is a single-purpose narcotics dog. Every Friday we’ll train with the drug taskforce, and we’ll put out training aids in strategic areas – sometimes we’ll do buildings, sometimes cars or schools. The goal of training is to make sure he can alert on every aid.

CS: What’s the best part of the job?

MS: The best part of the job is when we’re out working or training. Just to see how far we’ve come – from him knowing nothing, to today.

CS: What was it like meeting Stosh?

MS: When I got to the kennel, it’s him and his five siblings. I throw the ball for him and boom, he starts following me. The kennel owner said, ‘That’s good! If the dog doesn’t bond with you, he’s going to work against you.’ So, we start playing, and then I get some aids from the trainer and he hits all the aids and I’m like, ‘Heck yeah, I’m getting another dog!’

CS: Do you think there are any misconceptions about this field of work?

MS: I used to be that officer that thought, ‘That mutt isn’t gonna find anything.’ Today, I know he is a tool, like what’s on my gun belt. I know that we can go out and one of us may not return. The same way I would give my life for my two boys and my wife, I’d give my life for this dog. That’s how strong the bond is.

Collegedale Police Department

Officer Brian Desmond & Evo

For this former volunteer firefighter, joining the police force wasn’t on his radar for the longest time. But after becoming friends with local officers and hearing their stories, Officer Desmond was hooked. He started off as a decoy, even though he was scared of shepherds at the time. Then he decided to put the suit on and take a bite to get past his fear. Now, this fearless fellow works side by side with his best buddy Evo, a 7-year-old Belgian Malinois who is a searching savant.   

CS: What is Evo’s most unique trait?

BD: He loves tracking and article searches. I had never seen a dog that could search for articles, so when we got him I took the Chief’s pocket knife and threw it into a grassy field at night. He was like, ‘This is my favorite knife; you better not lose it,’ [laughs]. Evo found it immediately.

CS: What’s it like working with a K9 partner?

BD: We know each other so well that when we’re doing a track, if he misses a turn he’ll do just the slightest head check. You could hardly notice it. But I’ll let him keep going for about another 15 feet or so, then he’ll stop, and I’ll go back to where he did his head check and then he’s back on.

CS: What’s your favorite moment with Evo so far?

BD: There have been a bunch – everything from my 4-year-old helping me feed him and give out commands to going to elementary schools to do demos and walkthroughs. I’ll have 15, 20 kids run up to him and touch his ears, pull his tail. He’s really chill.

CS: Does Evo have any funny quirks?

BD: He loves water. He tries to jump the fence and get into my swimming pool every single time I let him out of his kennel. Every time. Especially if someone’s in the pool.

CS: How did you and Evo bond?

BD: He was actually another handler’s dog for about two years. When that officer quit the force, he gave Evo back to the training facility. We started looking about two years later, and they were like, ‘We have the perfect dog for you.’ So they take me to this room that’s set up like a bedroom, let him in, and he just starts running at me. Or so I thought. He actually ran right past me and jumped on the bed and looked at me like, ‘Who are you?’ But then once we started interacting and playing, we just got to know each other.

CS: What’s the best part of the job?

BD: Spending all day together and getting bad guys off the street.

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