Military Police dog handler Sergeant Justin Caron and Vimy are leaving Garrison Petawawa. Just like any other dog, Vimy loves to be petted, but when he is on the job, he must not be touched, nor will he be receptive to affection. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Police dog and handler leaving Petawawa
By Patricia Leboeuf
Posted on Thursday, June 15, 2017
Not only does Vimy love his tummy rubs, but he also protects and serves in his role as the only military police dog in the Canadian Armed Forces.
At 11-years-old, the pup has seen it all - from search and rescue to police defence to looking for narcotics. Yet throughout his changing career, his one constant companion has been Sergeant Justin Caron. Sgt Caron first took him in at 16-weeks-old and has been his handler and best friend ever since. “He lives with me 24/7 and works with me 24/7,” he said. “He goes to every call with me. He may not leave the vehicle but he is always with me, ready to go.”
Now they are both leaving Garrison Petawawa for Halifax. Vimy’s career remains uncertain because of his age; he may take on some policing duties or he may retire. Regardless of his future, he has had a huge impact locally.
Starting as a general service dog, Vimy was originally chosen as he had a high prey drive. His skills were refined over the years through courses, exercises and real-life experience. At one time, it wasn’t uncommon for Vimy and Sgt Caron to respond to up to 130 calls a year. As of late, Vimy has been working less in the field, but his skills still remain sharp. He easily shifts from being an affection-seeking pup to a dog ready to work with a word of command. “He enjoys doing it,” said Sgt Caron. “It is a game, it’s fun and it has a purpose.”
When the duo first came to Petawawa, Sgt Caron conducted many demonstrations at different units to show what a police dog can do. This often encouraged individuals with drug issues to come forward and seek help. “That ... was one of the bigger things we did in terms of the drug profile,” said Sgt Caron. “It was a big boost.”
Bonds between law enforcement personnel are naturally very strong, as is the relationship between a police dog and his handler. “He is the best partner you can ever have,” said Sgt Caron. “He is very loyal. He doesn’t talk back. He is always happy to see you.”
Vimy is great for morale wherever he goes, whether at the station waiting for a call or out at events in the community. He attracts attention wherever he goes. “You can bring tanks, you can bring aircrafts but when the dog comes out, people are drawn to you,” said Sgt Caron.
He is also an invaluable tool for officer safety. Even though an area may look secure, Vimy is always aware of a perpetrator. With a twitch of an ear, he can alert personnel of any danger and keep them from harm. Being able to detect harmful substances and people came after long hours of training with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Academy Canine Training Centre as well as constant refreshers. The initial course is 80 days long, and then it is an extra 30 days to learn how to sniff out narcotics. “I go back five times a year for a refresher course,” said Sgt Caron.
Being a police dog handler requires hard work and very long hours. Still, it is a lifestyle that he loves and he is in a relatively unique position. “When I first joined, there was no dog in the military police branch,” said Sgt Caron. “We are the only dog that exists.”
Over the years, other dogs were put into service, but they have since left. Vimy is the only one that remains. Once they leave Petawawa, 2 Military Police Regiment will have the capability to replace them, but Sgt Caron is unaware of any plan to do so in the near future.
It was an honour to be a dog handler, one that he is grateful to have experienced. “I would not change it for the world,” said Sgt Caron. “It is an opportunity that next to none of us had.”