Life in the dog squad and the cold-nosed pursuit of justice
IT'S the police unit for brave young officers who gladly protect and serve in exchange for just pats and bickies.
The Cairns Post was given special access to the 12-member Dog Squad as both man and animal were put through their paces in a high-intensity training session this week.
It is a job unlike any other. Where handler and dog head home together every night.
They go from being the focused, high-intensity and - when required - ferocious canines required to track offenders and missing people, to beloved family pets who love a pat, a feed and a nap.
Cairns' squad is headed by veteran handler Sgt Dave Raymond, who works alongside Police Dog (PD) Axel - a six-year-old german shepherd who is also the oldest member of the four-legged contingent.
Like all the squad, Sgt Raymond and Axel were matched together when Axel was still a puppy going through his paces at the police training facility in Brisbane and the bond they have formed is incredibly tight.
"The trust we have with each other is incredible and obviously needs to be, considering some of the jobs we attend," Sgt Raymond said.
"That is a very necessary part of the dog squad, because as members we do work alone, just with our dog, and often go chasing offenders a long way from any help or back-up."
There are three other german shepherds in the team - PD Bally, a four-year-old who is partnered with Senior-Constable Adrian Marek; PD Thor, who is five and teamed with Sen-Constable Dan Fysh; and PD Ziggy, another six-year-old who works alongside Sen-Constable Felipe Peraza.
Sen-Constable Peraza is one of just two officers in the state who also handles a drug detection dog - a seven-year-old labrador named PD Neo.
Drug detection colleague Sen-Constable Glen Buckle has brothers PD Quincy and PD Radar, who are both four.
Competition to get into the squad is intense, with positions rarely popping up.
The job is not glamorous or for the faint-hearted though.
"The dogs track at almost a full sprint and they continue this sometimes for many kilometres," Sgt Raymond said.
"The only drawback is the handler needs to keep up with the dog, so sometimes this can be rather difficult."
Their incredible sense of smell allows them to find people hiding in trees, underwater, in ceilings and even one offender recently hiding under a stationary truck.
The drug dogs are also trained to sniff out multiple substances including methylamphetamine, cocaine and heroin, along with firearms.
Of the 150 people located by the Cairns squad per year, it's not just about chasing and catching bad guys either.
"Another large part of our role is to locate missing persons, sometimes through lost bushwalkers, persons suffering from dementia or other mental health issues," Sgt Raymond said. "These dogs are directly responsible for saving lives, something they don't really get or want accolades for.
"On two occasions after a successful track I have been required to administer CPR. I can proudly say, both of these people are still with us."
DAYS IN THE LIFE OF THE DOG SQUAD
POLICE Dog Thor was recently called in to track an offender who had attacked a police officers, causing very serious injuries.
The chase went for about a kilometre before the man was found in a creek.
Sgt Dave Raymond said the man then tried to turn on PD Thor but came off second best and suffered several bite marks on his arm.
"The dogs are very loyal animals and it is not trained, but more instinct that they will defend their handler every time," he said.
PD Bally also recently faced an offender who attempted to take him on after a long chase through bushland south of Cairns.
Sgt Raymond said he was "put in his place pretty quickly".
"Although chasing and detaining violent and armed offenders is part of the role, it is not too often that we are required to use this function," he said.
"Most people when confronted with an angry police dog, give themselves up."
Originally published as Dirty hairy: Meet Cairns' dogs of law