Summer vacation means lake days, sunshine and relaxation. Hitch, a police service dog (PSD) with the Saanich Police Department, is checking all the boxes while on his annual vacation days at Shuswap Lake this year.
— Saanich PD K9 (@SaanichPDK9) August 2, 2019
Despite being employees, the police service dogs get paid in treats and don’t actually get their own vacation days. However, they do get to tag along when their human partners go out of town, explained Sgt. Julie Fast, public information officer for the Saanich Police.
The time off is more for the handlers because the dogs are so motivated that they would happily work 24/7 if they could, said Fast with a laugh.
Police service dogs are working dogs, but they live with their handler and the handler’s family. If the family vacation involves a flight, the PSD will stay with another handler, but if it’s feasible they’ll join in on the family vacation. Lucky for Hitch, his family chose a road trip which allowed him to join them at Shuswap Lake. He’s currently lounging by the water and playing fetch with his handler, Const. Ken Mead.
There are currently four police service dogs and four handlers in the Saanich Police K9 Unit and they work on a rotating schedule, Fast explained. The dogs and handlers form a strong bond because they’re always together. Sometimes they’ll even retire together as partners.
Handler positions are highly competitive, said Fast, and the application process is lengthy due to the high standards. It’s also a big commitment for the handler and for their family as they will need to accommodate the dog and live close enough to the city so they can be on scene in a timely manner if they get called out, she explained.
However, the handlers are passionate and work hard to earn the positions, said Fast.
“It’s not for everybody,” she pointed out. “It takes a special person.”