By Tee O’Fallon
My beloved Belgian sheepdog, Jet, had just passed away. My sweet, beautiful boy had been with me for nearly fifteen years, and his sister for nearly thirteen. To commemorate their unforgettable spirits, I started posting all kinds of photos on my social media sites. Jet’s first day at the beach… Taz drinking beer… Jet’s first day in the river… You get the picture. I loved and adored my big furry guy and his little sis. My editor—and the rest of the free world—picked up on my uber-love of dogs and suggested I write about them. Hence, the birth of my K-9 series.
But then I was faced with a problem. I had over twenty years active-duty law enforcement, but not a single day with K-9s. And I mean zilch. Sure, I’d run across an occasional drug dog, patrol dog, bomb dog, even a plant-sniffing beagle at the airport (yes, really!), but I had no personal experience with K-9s. As far as research went I was starting from scratch. So how was I to get hands-on experience with K-9s such that I could reasonably write a novel about them?
As a primer, I subscribed to Police K-9 Magazine, which was informative and provided great general background, but was certainly no substitute for hands-on exposure to K-9s and their handlers. After twenty plus years working and networking in the world of federal law enforcement, I had connections out the wazoo, but I like to maintain space between my writing job and my LE job and keep things on the down-low.
The hero of my first K-9 novel is a CIA officer, so I enthusiastically went the straight-up route and called the CIA Public Affairs, Media Relations phone number listed on the CIA website, inquiring as Jane Q. Public. Sadly, after multiple inquiries there was no response. For a government phone number, one I’m sure my taxpayer money—and yours—pays to fund I was kinda ticked off. And yes, through my own channels I did wind up with contact info for a couple of CIA agents, but I didn’t want to put anyone on the spot. And they probably would have told me to go through channels anyway. But who has time for that?
Luckily, a friend of a friend had another friend who had a connection with the Massachusetts State Police (MSP) K-9 Unit. A couple quick calls, followed by a series of short emails and voila! Approval was granted for me to attend a state police K-9 training session in Springfield, Massachusetts.
In July 2017, I was graciously permitted to observe a K-9 training session hosted by the MSP and attended by various K-9 officers from surrounding towns. These folks could not have been more helpful or more welcoming. I suppose my law enforcement background may have put them a bit more at ease, but still…these were truly nice people. They were totally receptive to all my inane questions and put up with me photographing and video taping them and their beautiful K-9s in action.
Every aspect of law enforcement involves extensive training, but K-9s are a unique world unto themselves that can only be understood through experience. So while I’ve done my best to accurately portray K-9 officers and their partners, any mistakes are most definitely my own.
I’ll leave you with two thoughts. First, I sincerely hope you enjoy Lock ’N’ Load as much as I enjoyed researching it. Second, can you imagine working every day with a canine partner? I can, and that is the only regret I have in my law enforcement career—I shoulda been a K-9 cop.
Special Sneak Peak – read the first chapter of Lock ’N’ Load!
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