The crystalline police station stood proudly in the center of the district, wider than most of the other buildings that surrounded it like protective layers, but not as tall as those that shielded the beating heart of the city. Although the building was built with similar materials, steel and reflective glass that lined most of the stories, it had a very unique molding that decorated the front, and electric panels that showcased the accolades of the serving police officers. Serving as banners, two electronic posts held thin and upright panels on either side of the entrance in a symmetrical frame that was exclusive to the K-9 units of the station and its sister Academy.
The panels transitioned smoothly to show various German shepherds in heroic poses and a small snippet of the accomplishment that earned them their place. Most were of the traditional black and tan variety, but one stood out. He had an air of experience about him that an untrained eye might mistake for age. His color, departing from established precedence, was a deep black with distinct silver points, known to geneticists as a buried recessive. He looked strong and capable, and he was everything Bandit wanted to emulate.
Right now, Bandit laid in the lobby of the police station with his head on his outstretched paws and looked up innocently at the passing officers as they bustled around the office. Smirks and sneers were sent his way whenever someone had to pass too closely outside of the cubicles and desks arranged past the main receptionist desk. His velvet ears flicked as comments drifted his way from the chattering coworkers.
"Did you hear about the case earlier?"
"Yeah, Michaels was talking about it in the break room. That plug messed it up again. Smith was furious."
"That's not even the half of it. They say the perp got away. Smith was working for weeks to crack that case. I bet he wishes his own police dog hadn't retired."
The chatter was brought to an immediate silence when the Chief threw open his office door, near enough to Bandit to make the dog scramble out of the way.
"Smith, get in here!" Chief Bogart slammed his oaken office door and sat heavily in his plush chair behind his desk and drummed his thick fingers on the mahogany texture. As his anger simmered, his secretaries would later swear that steam flushed out of his flared nostrils and his quickly reddening ears. The Chief's eyes became slits as Gary Smith peeked in to his office. "Sit down!"
"Yes sir, sorry sir," Smith hastily apologized as he scurried to his seat across from the Chief.
"So, I've been told you'd like to change partners again," the Chief spoke calmly now, which only raised the tension aided by his scrutinizing gaze. Smith stifled a gulp and smacked his suddenly dry lips before stammering a reply, one that he had practiced since the case earlier.
"Sir, if I may point out, it's clearly not just me. He's been through eight partners in the last month and half alone. His work is sub-par, and his trust and credibility are eroding," Smith explained until Chief Bogart interrupted him.
"How long have you worked in the K-9 unit, Smith?"
"Going on five years, sir," Smith replied with a little apprehension in not seeing where the Chief was going with this.
"In that time, have you not learned how to motivate and guide a trained canine?"
"The problem isn't that, sir, if I may say. Bandit seems ambitious and more than willing to please."
"Well, what is wrong, then? Who could ask for a better partner than that?" Chief Bogart's patience was starting to show signs of wear, and Smith could feel it.
"He excels in the training exercises, but he seems to freeze up or panic under any real pressure. On actual cases, and I've heard stories about this too rather than just seen it myself, he forgets commands, makes mistakes, or even becomes unresponsive," Smith explained. "It's downright embarrassing sometimes."
"Okay," Chief Bogart considered. "has he been physically evaluated? We have his puppy records and I've taken a peek at them. His health tests have come back normal and without any obvious problems. Is he ill or injured?"
"We have no reason to suspect so," Smith replied hesitantly. "Perhaps you should pressure the Board into considering him for pet-home transition. I'm sure he'll make a family very happy. A career isn't meant for every dog."
"The Board is adamant in retaining as many dogs as we can. Good dogs are hard to find and even more expensive to train. There's nothing glaringly wrong with him, so we will just keep trying. 'Waste not, want not', I believe the saying is," Chief Bogart said with a decisive sniff and hunch of his shoulders.
"Yes, sir," Smith muttered in a defeated tone.
"However," Chief Bogart relented, "you will be reassigned by next week, since your allotted time restriction is up for partner changes. We'll send Bandit through rehabilitation and see how that does, and then he'll get a new partner."
"Thank you, sir!" Smith immediately brightened, and dismissed, he exited the office with a new buoyancy in his step. When he was alone again, the Chief sighed and shuffled some paperwork and scanned the list of names again.
Who in this precinct could he assign the "plug" to that would make a minimum fuss? The majority of the names were crossed out in broad red strokes, and eligible names were hard to pick out. His secretary speaking into his intercom was the only noise in the office as she reminded him that the Induction Ceremony was beginning soon. With a huff, the Chief hurriedly circled a name, the latest victim to Bandit's apparent incompetence. Realizing whose name he had circled, he couldn't hold back a chuckle about the new guy.
He leaned back in his chair and clasped his hands behind his head while he pondered Bandit's predicament. He had served in the K-9 unit himself before his promotion, and it was a treasured part of the service. He knew the value of a good canine companion, and the Latin motto that was embossed on the plaque in the front lobby read: Canis meus; Arma meus. It roughly translated to "The Dog is my Shield".
He had had his own shield at the time, who was now aged and retired in his family home. His full given name had been Snitch, as he was also known in the force, but at home his young daughter had unwittingly called him "Snitz" and spelled it that way in grade school throughout her young childhood. Since his retirement, those two had been nearly inseparable. That was the value of a good dog; quality in work and in life.
The Chief found himself asking his conscience as to whether he thought Bandit could provide that sort of quality. Smith wasn't wrong; some dogs just weren't cut out for the sort of life that police service dogs led. But could he also truthfully say that they hadn't had worse lost causes that turned out to be decent, if not commendable, police dogs? He knew he had to tread carefully here.
He looked again at the name he had circled, then grabbed his uniformed vest and left his office with only one thought.
This was going to be good.
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