Heidi Kyser

Journalist, writer

Posts Tagged ‘Las Vegas Review Journal

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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Car hits kids: A post-script to pedestrian safety story

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The Las Vegas Review Journal sent a news flash this morning about a car hitting two children in front of Culley Elementary School. It reminded me of the time I spent watching pedestrians flee oncoming auto traffic on the streets of Las Vegas while reporting a recent story, Walkers Beware, for City Life.

A public information officer at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department confirmed today’s accident was as the RJ described. It happened near Washington Avenue and Jones Boulevard in the northwest part of the valley, and both kids went to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The PIO had no additional information, such as specifics on injuries or whether the children were in a crosswalk. As pedestrian advocate Erin Breen noted in my story, “non-life threatening” injuries are not necessarily easy to recover from.

This incident, like so many others, underscores our community’s need to address pedestrian safety issues. People who want to get involved can check out efforts like Safe Routes to School and Look Out Kids About, or contact school administrators and public officials to see what — if anything — is being done in their area.

Pink paper makes a stark reminder

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When I saw the paper deliveryman making a tardy 7:30 a.m. round on my street last Friday, Sept. 30, I wondered if it had anything to do with that day’s issue of the Las Vegas Review Journal being pink. I imagined the scene in the printing department – someone in pre-press gritting his teeth and cursing management for their bright ideas.

Real or imagined printing drama aside, it was a worthy endeavor. The black-ink-on-pink-paper edition was designed to call attention to National Breast Cancer Awareness month, which started the following day, Oct. 1. RJ owner Stephens Media donated proceeds from street sales of the paper to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Although well-known, the pervasiveness of breast cancer still surprises me. Two of my aunts have had it, and yet the steady stream of e-mails I got over the weekend thanking me for my story in the special pink RJ took me by surprise. I was reminded that this disease’s power to ravage bodies and lives is such that it has left little of our society untouched.

This month invites everyone to do something, no matter how small. Women can learn to check their own bodies or make appointments for mammograms. Men can make donations to research organization or sign up to run in next spring’s Race for the Cure. Kids can get community service points for school by volunteering with local organizations like the Janet Sue Mason Foundation.

If everyone whose life has been touched by breast cancer does a little, it gets us all closer to the day when we won’t need a month, or a pink paper, as a reminder anymore.

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