Dog of the Day
Dorro's Badge of Courage
by Carie Broecker
Officer Eddie Santana considers himself a “dog person.” Dogs have been a part of his life as long as he can remember. When the Watsonville Police Department sent out a memo inviting officers to apply to be canine handlers, Santana jumped at the opportunity. After a long selection process, Santana was chosen to head to the Witmer-Tyson Kennels in Menlo Park to be partnered with a dog and go through a four-week training course.
Santana trained with three different dogs, but none of them were the right fit. The first was too passive, the second was too wild, and the third was too young. He could not get him to pass the exam. At that point, he had to take a year off before he could go through the program again.
A year later, the owner of the kennels called Santana and told him they had the perfect dog for him. Dorro was two years old and weighed 68 pounds. Santana specifically wanted a small-stature German Shepherd since they tend to live longer and stay healthier than the larger dogs who often have to retire early due to joint problems.
When Santana met Dorro, the connection was instantaneous. He knew this was the partner for him. Santana took Dorro home for three months to bond with him, his girlfriend, his two-year-old daughter, and his Tea Cup Chihuahua, Nano.
After three months, they spent four intense weeks together training at the kennels. The duo passed all evaluations with flying colors. Dorro is a natural and is exceedingly intelligent. He is also tri-lingual! His police work commands are spoken to him in German, but he has also picked up both English and Spanish words from Santana and the other people around him.
Santana and Dorro have been patrolling together for two and a half years now. Dorro has 49 surrenders and nine apprehensions to his credit. Santana and Dorro roam the city of Watsonville monitoring the situations other officers are dispatched to, and heading out to wherever a police canine will be most useful. There is never a dull moment while on duty. Santana says their work is nonstop from the moment they are on duty to the moment they head home.
Santana never takes Dorro for granted, nor does he kid himself about the danger he puts both of them in every day on the job. He is afraid for him every time Dorro is deployed.
A particularly harrowing day was when they were called upon to apprehend a man out on parole who was suspected of rape. The suspect, a known gang member, was holed up in his brother’s house with the place surrounded. He was given the opportunity to surrender. No response. They called him out again. Still silence. The suspect was informed, as per protocol, that there was a police dog on site and he would be coming in after him. This was his last chance to surrender. Instead of giving himself up, the perpetrator chose to wrap himself in a blanket and hide.
When Dorro is sent in to apprehend a suspect, he is searching for the scent of fear. In this instance, he found the criminal crouched behind the dryer. Santana’s job is to trail Dorro and protect him. With Dorro fixated on the dryer, alerting, the man was given one more chance to surrender, which he did not. Dorro was given the command to apprehend and the next sound was the cry of pain let out by the suspect as Dorro did his job, which was to bite down and hold whatever body part is presented to him first.
Of course to Dorro, this is all play. His greatest joy is to play. He gets rewarded and praised by Santana during their training sessions, which involve numerous fake scenarios set up throughout the month to keep the pair on their toes.
It is not the daily threat of personal danger to himself and his best friend that is the biggest concern about having a canine partner. Santana says the issue of liability is an ever-present responsibility. Before he sends Dorro off on an apprehension, Santana has to be positive every procedure is followed to the letter to avoid any lawsuits against the city.
A police canine is a big expense for the police department. Dorro was purchased for $10,000. The annual cost of $6,000 to care for him is also paid by the city, which includes food, vet care, and on-going training. What is not included is a protective vest.
Last fall, the Monterey Bay Dog Training Club purchased a protective vest for Dorro at a cost of $800, which was presented to him and Officer Santana on September 11, 2010.
I wish we lived in a society where crime and violence were unheard of, and dogs could be dogs and never be put in danger the way Dorro is. Until that time, my thoughts and prayers and gratitude are with Dorro and Santana and all the canines and their human partners who selflessly put themselves in harm’s way to keep the streets safe for the rest of us to enjoy. Bless you all.