The Day I Met Officer Bruno

I just saw a Facebook post about how a police officer’s life was saved by his canine partner.

This story gave me a classroom flashback.  Several years ago, I had a morning job substituting at a local high school.  Just before I left, I was asked if I could cover for a social studies teacher for the afternoon?  Sure, and I went directly to the room number I was given.

I had to preside over three classes in civics and government.  Fortunately, I had three guest lecturers — police officers all.  Or should I say two lecturers and an observer?   The only officer I remember from that afternoon was Officer Bruno, because he was so special.  He had four legs and titanium teeth!  Yes, he was a police dog, but an officer in every sense of the word.  He was so important his primary weapons — canine teeth — were coated in titanium, because there is nothing worse than a police dog with broken teeth.  To do their jobs, their bite has to be worse than their bark.  Or as his handler put it, “If he goes after you, you’re going to the hospital.  Period.”

Officer Bruno was a Belgian Shepard, and he and his trainer had a life-long bond.  He was actually quite gentle in the classroom, a real girl magnet.  He took his cues from the situation.  To demonstrate, his trainer said “Attack, kill,”  and Bruno just sat there wagging his tail.  But put him on a street corner on a dark night….  He responded to both voice commands and hand signals.  But he was still very much a dog.  He wore a shock collar because sometimes he needed a gentle reminder that he was on duty when he got distracted like dogs occasionally do. (“Squirrel!”)  And occasionally he would get himself into an unsafe situation; once his handler had to forget the suspect they were chasing across a river when Bruno was in danger of being swept downstream.

It made for an interesting afternoon, and I think I learned more than the kids.

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