Heidi Kyser

Journalist, writer

Posts Tagged ‘Dog

Best friends vs. bad guys story ends in tragic twist

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My profile, Best friends taking on the bad guys, in this month’s issue of Desert Companion begins this way: “Imagine patting your trusty canine companion on the head — and then sending him into a situation from which he may not return.” Sadly, that’s just what happened to Las Vegas Metro Police  Officer Jeff Corbett and his K9 partner, Marco, a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois.

I paraphrased the passage quoted above from a moving part of my interview with the profiled officer, Duwayne Layton. I could, actually, imagine patting my little Cocker Spaniel Aja on the head and then sending her into a room where an armed person had barricaded himself and was waiting to pick off people as they entered. It made me shudder, and then tear up.

I reacted with similar empathy to the news about Marco, which I happened to get the same day I turned in the Layton profile to my editor. According to a report in the Las Vegas Review Journal, on May 14, a Metro officer shot Marco after the dog mistakenly bit the shooter’s partner. Following nine days in intensive care, having lost the use of his limbs, Marco was euthanized, the Friends of the Las Vegas Police K9s reported on their Facebook page.

Internal investigators are looking into the incident. I suppose it strained relationships inside Metro, what with the physical injury of the officer who was attacked and the grief of Corbett and the rest of the K9 unit.

Based on the time I spent with Layton, I believe the loss of a K9 dog strikes unit members with a combination of what devoted pet owners like me feel when their companion dies, and what other law enforcement officers feel when their partner dies. To their handlers, these dogs are much more than just order-following machines.

In this short video of Layton and his retired K9 partner Rico, captured at Marc Kahre Elementary School’s Kahre Honor Day on May 11, Layton’s love for his dog is apparent:

If it weren’t for the uniform, you’d think you were looking at a man and his best friend, like any other.

But it’s deeper than that. K9 dogs live with their handlers, and as Layton explained to me, for the first couple weeks of their partnership, nobody in a household can interact with the dog but his handler. It establishes what Layton described as a bond not unlike that between parent and child.

Layton’s neighbor and Kahre Elementary teacher Sharlyn Reid told me she believes the apparent harmony between man and dog is part of the reason why kids at the school love the regular visits law enforcement pays to give demonstrations and motivational talks.

“They love Officer Layton,” she said, “because they love the partnership he has with his dogs.”

Blame and responsibility notwithstanding, what happened to Marco is tragic for everyone involved. It’s a part of the job that officers like Layton accept when they sign up, but it will no doubt pluck that cord of fear in their hearts the next time they pat their partners on the head and send them into situations from which they may not return.

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Who’s Your Best Friend?

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Cat gassed down/masked down with anesthesia fo...

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A flyer in the lobby of Warm Springs Animal Hospital, where I took my dog Aja to see her vet this morning, reminded me of the recent feature I wrote on Best Friends Animal Sanctuary for Desert Companion.

The flyer wasn’t about Best Friends, though. It was about The Animal Foundation, which was also mentioned in my story. I recalled the 2007 disease outbreak at Lied Animal Shelter, which the foundation operates, as part of the backdrop against which Best Friends began reducing its mobile adoptions from its Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, to Las Vegas. I also cited Clark County Animal Control statistics on animals impounded and euthanized at Lied as evidence that Best Friends’ help is clearly needed in our area.

The flyer I picked up this morning was a stark reminder of how dire the pet overpopulation problem in the Las Vegas Valley has become. The flyer gives the following data (which is not sourced, but presumably comes from The Animal Foundation itself):

  • The foundation receives 50,000-plus animals each year.
  • In 2009, it took in 2,000 more dogs and cats than Animal Care and Control of New York City.
  • It takes in 136 animals daily, on average.
  • Only 13 percent of animals placed in Las Vegas homes come from shelters or rescues; 9 percent come from the foundation.
  • The foundation performs 8,000 spay or neuter procedures annually.

According to the flyer, the number of spay and neuter operations will rise by 4,000 annually starting this year, due to the opening of a new public spay and neuter clinic.

Although the animal welfare world is divided on the best cure for pet overpopulation, at least one person I interviewed for the story thinks spay and neuter laws are the answer. Holly Stoberski, who was on Clark County’s Animal Advisory Committee through 2010 and is on the board of local Heaven Can Wait Animal Society, told me that she believes ordinances such as Las Vegas’ Code 7.14, adopted in 2009, will help reduce the number of unwanted pets in the valley.

As with so many well-intentioned laws and services, the success of 7.14 and Lied’s clinic will depend on enforcement and marketing, respectively. If my neighborhood is any indication of citywide norms, Las Vegans think it’s perfectly acceptable to let their unaltered dogs roam the streets with no identification. Placing flyers in veterinary clinics is preaching to the choir; let’s hope The Animal Foundation is doing much more to get its message to those who are filling its intake rooms with 136 animals per day.

Written by Heidi Kyser

May 23, 2011 at 3:17 pm

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