MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) - It's true what they say, dogs are a man's best friend. Especially when that best friend is responsible for protecting you every single day. Moss Point's police department is home to one K9 officer.
Officer Delaney Waltman and his K9 Cora, a 50 pound Belgian Malinois police dog, patrol the streets of Moss Point. "She is on point the whole day. She's ready for something to happen and she never relaxes," Officer Waltman said.
On this day, the two were called to a minor traffic incident. Officer Waltman parked and got out of the truck to handle the report. Cora never took her eyes off of him. It's a bond only these two share. Officer Waltman is Cora's handler, but he's so much more.
He said, "She lives with me. She encompasses every day to day life."
Cora is family. She's 9-years-old and hunting for bad guys has been her job with different handlers for nearly a decade. Officer Waltman has more than 15 years experience with several departments and units, from being a motorcycle officer to SWAT, even teaching. For the past four years, he and Cora have been a team. His first K9. It's also a first for the department.
"She's a multi-purpose dog. I mean from tracking wanted violent fugitives to drug apprehensions, to being at a daycare with children and being petted by children," said Moss Point Police Chief Brandon Ashley.
"Dog lovers say oh it must be great, you get to bring your dog and y'all get to play. They don't understand the difference of it. While we're at work it's not really play time," added Officer Waltman.
While Cora's on duty, it's all business. "We have three bites and around seven apprehensions," Officer Waltman said. "An apprehension is where she and I tracked a suspect, or got a suspect to surrender out of a building or another location based on us just being there with the K9."
Officer Waltman and Cora's first take down was suspect wanted out of multiple states, holed up inside a home in Moss Point.
"While we were checking the first house, we got a phone call that said somebody ran out of the back of the house next door. She was sniffing all over the place. She wasn't on odor. Then all of a sudden, she just snapped to and took off. We had to go through a swampy area to get to the bridge where he was hiding. After several minutes of she and I giving him commands to surrender, he attempted to take off and that's when I released her and she apprehended him," Waltman said. "It was a little weird to release the dog and have her apprehend the bad guy, and all you had to do was put the handcuffs on him."
"Officer Waltman is an asset to the police department," Chief Ashley added. "He's the only K9 for the department so he responds at different times. We can call him out any time any day of the week to go out and assist the regular officers in apprehending violent suspects."
Waltman gives Cora commands in Dutch. The two trained for weeks at K9 school years ago, but it's an everyday training session with Cora. The two run the routine often, sometimes in front of a crowd of people who may have the misconception that police dogs are attack dogs.
"I've walked in restaurants with her, convenience stores. When I go into the police department, she goes with me. Most of these scenarios are all off lead," Officer Waltman said.
Off lead meaning no leash. She's well trained and won't attack unless Officer Waltman gives the command. He said, "When I get her out, everybody is immediately scared of her. They think that door's going to swing open and she's just going to come out biting. She is completely different than that."
I asked permission to pet Cora. Officer Waltman warned me that she's a sucker for a good belly rub! "She'll just about knock you down to get you to continue petting her," he said laughing.
Cora is a proud recipient of a Purple Heart. She was shot in the leg in the line of duty five years ago. It was a case of mistaken identity.
"During the course of the search warrant, she got off her collar and bit an officer inside the house. He thought it was a dog inside of the house, one of the suspect's dogs. The officer turned around and discharged his weapon and shot her in the left hind quarter," Waltman said.
Cora's demeanor never changed. She returned to duty, ready to work. "Once they assigned them together, it's been a perfect match basically," Chief Ashley said, adding that he'd put a K9 on every shift if he could but it's not in the budget.