Do you ever feel like this?

“I try to take it one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once.”

                                                                                                – Ashleigh Brilliant


Posted in A Day in the Life Quotes by Sandra. 1 Comment

Blood Lines & the Family Tree

Do ancestry and family ties have any bearing on career selection and personal interests?

I grew up in a loving family with a stay-at-home mother and a self-employed father. My father’s family lived in Northern Ireland and my mother’s side lived in Alberta and Saskatchewan. As such, we rarely saw my dad’s side and we visited my mom’s side once or twice a year. Childhood snapshots include memories of driving across Canada to spend summer months in Saskatchewan. The prairie wheat silos, the small green ranch house in Nipawin and the single lane bridge across the Saskatchewan River all come into play.

What I distinctly recall is the lack of exposure to law enforcement. With the exception of my dad playing rugby with a bunch of cops and firemen, and the one time the Vancouver Police Department used my parent’s house as a sniper post for a barricaded suspect (that’s a story for another post as it may have sparked my interest in becoming a police dog handler), there were no interactions or mentions of law enforcement or other public service jobs in our daily lives.

Now, though, my family tree is sprinkled with blue uniforms.

My grandfather (who died long before I was born) was Quarter Master and then Commandant for the British Red Cross (Belfast) during World War 2. I only found this out in 2010.

My husband is fire department Lieutenant, and his cousin is a fire fighter with the same agency.

My cousin is a detective with a police agency in Eastern Canada, and my brother-in-law is another fire fighter.

To top it off, my son has made noises about wanting to be a police officer when he grows up.  My daughter? Not so much – she’s still undecided.

My children’s thoughts do not come as a surprise, as they are surrounded by police officers and fire fighters on a regular basis. They hear the stories (even when we try to shield them) and experience what it is to be the child of a parent who serves the public good. That they would consider law enforcement or fire fighting as a career is expected, given they are raised in a certain environment.

That said, I’ve often wondered if the drive to serve the public, to work in law enforcement, and to run towards danger when others are running away from it are inherited or learned character traits. After reading up on and studying various theories on inheritance and genetics (Charles Darwin, mendelian inheritance, Lamarckism to name a few), I’m no closer to figuring it out.

Perhaps we are not meant to fully understand.



No hot dogs!

Saturday, May 26th, 2012 was City of Vancouver‘s Family Day. Various departments were there, including police, fire, and parks & recreation. The entire event was geared towards children and families: bouncy castles galore, popcorn, face painting, balloons, a mini-bike course, races, stickers and temporary tattoos.

The Vancouver Police Department was represented by a large contingent. The Mounted Squad brought Police Horses Duke and Ben, the Forensic Identification Unit  took ‘mug shots’, the Emergency Response Team displayed their ARV (Armed Response Vehicle – yes, it’s as impressive as it looks), and the Traffic Section rode in on the sweet rumble of Harley engines.


Duke and Ben


ARV (photo Rebecca Blissett, Vancouver Courier)


PSD Hondo and I spent time meeting and greeting dozens of people. Hondo really liked the kids as he has learned they often have forgotten food bits and/or treats in their pockets. The only down side was the kids often had helium balloons attached to them, which piqued Hondo’s interest (I’m sure he was thinking, “Cool! A floating ball! You brought that over here just for me?!?!”), so I had to make sure the balloons stayed far enough away.

Hondo was a good sport, and even posed for photos.


PD Hondo and our police SUV


Santurday was one of the warmest day we’ve had so far this year, and with very little breeze and no shade where we were stationed, Hondo’s black coat proved to be a detriment. I gave him lots of water breaks, but the only thing to keep him really happy was to lounge in the air conditioned environment of our police SUV. He’d stay out for a while, meet some people, start to get too hot, and then he’d go back in the truck to cool off.

The adults asked about Hondo being in a closed vehicle in the heat. We spoke of the dangers of leaving a dog in a hot car, and how quickly the temperature can rise to lethal levels, even on temperate days.

This is where our K9 vehicles are specialized – they have a modified interior, and the back seats are replaced with a large stainless steel kennel for the dogs to ride in. The side windows can be rolled down for airflow and to show the emergency lights mounted on the side (look at the photo above, and you will see the grate/mesh in the window of the open door).

The vehicle’s air conditioning system is piped into the kennel area and the SUV is equipped with a heat alarm. This specialized system monitors the temperature inside both the passenger and the K9 compartment. If the temperature gets too high, an extremely loud alarm is activated to notify the handler, and the windows on the SUV drop down to increase air flow.


K9 Heat Alarm - to keep our dogs safe


(I found out this past winter that the alarm also monitors when the interior gets too cold. I happened to be standing in front of the truck when the alarm went off, and I just about had to change my shorts. That sucker is really loud.)

Heat exhaustion (not just attributed to being left in a hot car) is a significant cause of death amongst working dogs. High temperatures combined with rigorous conditions can overheat a working dog in a very short time, and can be fatal.

The Connecticut Police Work Dog Association maintains a list of worldwide working dogs that are killed/die while in active service. Take a look through the list, and you will find a number of dogs have succumbed to heat exhaustion. The list may be distressing for some to read, as the average number of working dogs dying while in service averages 150 dogs a year (worldwide).

It is this reason the Vancouver Police Department outfits it’s K9 vehicles with heat alarms and goes to great lengths to ensure the safety and wellbeing our four-legged partners.


Twitter Update

Back at the beginning of February, I invited readers to come along on a virtual ride-along as I tweeted a few shifts working as a police dog handler. The growing number of followers during the first week was proof there are certain aspects of law enforcement that people really want to know about, and I think I was able to confirm our jobs aren’t like what you watch on TV or see at the movie theatre.

Sure, there are similar moments, but the action and adrenaline rarely last for a complete hour.

Sometimes, nothing happens, which makes for boring Twitter updates. Other times, moments happen in spits and spurts, and are ideal for interesting and fast updates.

Then there are day where everything happens at once.

Like today. Too busy for Twitter, and the sort of day only a proper blog post can address.

At one point, while returning from a stolen auto incident where an officer from another agency was injured (last I heard, he should be okay, but he’s pretty banged up), there were two residential break and enters and a theft from auto in progress being broadcast at the same time but in different districts. I had to choose one to go to (the closest one) and told the other dispatchers I would get to help them if I could. Immediately after that, I raced across the city to a hit and run where the suspect driver fled on foot.

On days like today, there could have been half a dozen dog units zipping around the city and we all would have been kept busy.

By the end of the day, I was sweaty, tired, covered in mud, and my hair was a wild thing barely contained in it’s ponytail. I spent a few minutes picking blackberry thorns out of Hondo’s feet and giving him a good once-over as we had climbed an overpass on Highway #1, sloshed through a flooded area and scaled a barbed wire fence.

Some of you may think this sounds awful, but to a dog handler, these are clear indications it was a good day.


But back to Twitter – I love the ability to micro-blog and send out messages in only 140 characters. Twitter balances ‘proper’ blogging and definitely has its place, especially in the policing world.

I’ve ‘met’ dozens of officers (many from the UK) and other people I never would have had the chance to interact with. Keeping in mind that Twitter is a social media platform and should not replace face-to-face interactions, it does provide a great avenue for expanding horizons.



Public Perspective

A young woman working in one of the clothing boutiques helped me as I went about spending some of my hard earned pay cheque.

While I selected items, checked price tags and assessed quality, the young woman and I chatted about how she liked her job. Then she caught me off guard by asking what I did for a living.

If I’m in unfamiliar surroundings or speaking to someone I don’t know, I’ll simply say I work for ‘The City’.  This response is sufficient most of the time, as the question often seems to be asked out of social nicety rather than true interest.  If pressed, I’m usually able to supply some vague description of a job encompassing  data entry and public order.  I’m proud of what I do for a living (and I’ll talk your ear off if given the chance) but there are many times when I simply don’t have the time to answer the deluge of questions in response my answer of law enforcement.

But this time, the young woman was truly interested and I had some time, so I answered her.

“I’m a police officer,” I said.

“Really?” she asked, with genuine surprise. “But you’re so nice!”


Yes, I was caught off guard – again.

Most of the officers I know are ‘nice’ and some are downright outstanding people, so it surprises me (even though it shouldn’t) when non-law-enforcement people comment how friendly certain officers are.

That said, I’ll let you in on a little secret – most police officers are like everyone else.

We have families and loved ones. We work hard, make sacrifices and make mistakes. We raise children, go to work, go to school, belong to sports clubs and enjoy our social lives. We experience happiness, love, pain, anger, fear and jealousy.

We are like you.

Yes, there are differences, but it’s not as simple as saying our jobs are different as it’s clearly more complicated than that. At the root of it – we are you, and you are us. We have the same fears, the same passions and the same drive.

We may focus on different priorities, but one opinion and way of life does not make it more or less important than the other.



Posted in A Day in the Life by Sandra. 12 Comments