Special Report: Inside the world of the canine cops

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Ocean Springs canine patrol officer Patrick Brandle and his dog Will are inseparable. Teammates in every sense of the word. They know each other well.

"He's highly intelligent and he's definitely a problem solver and he's eager to please and he loves to work," Brandle said.

He added the job would be a lot harder without Will.

"The dog is a fantastic tool. There are so many capabilities and abilities that the dog has in order to assist us in our law enforcement," Brandle explained.

What are some of those talents?

"He's trained in the detection in the odor of narcotics. Whether it's narcotics that are concealed in a vehicle or in a building or in a container, or an 18 wheeler."

It's time to hit the streets for a good reason, according to Brandle.

"Drugs are everywhere. It doesn't matter what neighborhood you live in or what part of town you're in or what city you're in, I guarantee you, there's narcotics around."

The first stop, Will alerts on the car and a small amount of marijuana and a pipe are found. The second stop, pills and syringes are discovered in the car, and the cuffs go on a suspect.

The most important job though is protecting his master.

"A lot of times I'm by myself and Will is able to, if somebody was to put their hands on me or try to assault me, we'll be able to engage them," Brandle said.

Here's an example of just how engaging it is. I threaten officer Brandle and Will attacks me. Fortunately, I'm wearing protective gear so there are no injuries.

That's part of the intensive training Will receives every week at Keesler Air Force Base. Military canines train as well, and do the same job of protecting their handlers in war zones like Afghanistan.  Sgt. Christopher Jarrell is the Keesler kennel master.

"There was a day that didn't go by where my dog Toky didn't save my life on more than one occasion," Jarrell recalled. "I've lost track of counting how many times he saved my life. The bond is just something you can't even compare."

Will also bonds with children. Part of his mission is visiting schools  As ferocious as Will can be around criminals, around kids, he's a pushover for affection and attention.  The kids are impressed.

Tracking is also on Will's resume, Brandle explained.

"Whether it be a small child and an elderly person that's got Alzheimer's that has wandered off, or a bad guy who's been involved in an armed robbery."

Watching Patrick and Will work together, you get a real sense of their companionship, their true teamwork. But you also get a sense of something else, something more real: the connection between man and man's best friend.

"It's 24 hours a day. The dog comes home with me. We live together. He's part of the family,  it's he and I," Brandle said.  "The thing is, he's like having a 10-month-old child with you all the time. He's just a big kid."

But something weighs heavy on Officer Brandle, something he doesn't like to think about, something disturbing that comes from the call of duty.

"At any given day though, I have to be willing to possibly sacrifice the dog for the safety of other officers or civilians and that's something that I always have to keep in the back of my mind."

Buying and training a police canine doesn't come cheap.  The average cost runs between $10,000 and $15,000. That of course, doesn't include the care the dogs receive on a daily basis.

By the way, Will was purchased for the city of Ocean Springs for $9,000.  The money was raised through private donations from businesses and individuals.

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