Metrolinx K9 unit begins patrols today – and we learn more about what life is like for the dogs off-duty

The transit agency’s K9 officers start regular patrols today (Oct 24), after months of training. So we take a look at the special bond forming between handlers and their furry partners – including when they log off each day.

After the action, every hero needs down-time at a quiet Fortress of Solitude – even one to share with their crime fighting and furry partner.

As Metrolinx’s new K9 unit officially begin their patrols today (Oct 24), their movements will be carefully watched by customers, employees and even those thinking about doing wrong on our lines.

But while those shifts watching over Canada’s largest transit region will be taxing, there is a place the teams will go to unwind and continue to form bonds between human and canine partners. It’s home.

Officer Hoffman hugs Dash, as they stand beside his outdoor kennel.

At rest – Transit Safety Officer Brenton Hoffman and Dash at their home.

Handlers take their dog home, and continue to cultivate trust and quick reflexes. They aren’t considered pets, but rather working professionals that need the same rest and relaxation as their human counterparts.

But getting to this point was not easy feat.

Toronto Police Dog Services hand selected and tested Dash prior to assigning him with Transit Safety Officer Brenton Hoffman – who is now his partner and handler – in June.

From there he and Dash completed a four-month training program.

“The biggest challenge was staying motivated each training day,” says Hoffman.

“The days were long and grueling, but I had to stay full of energy and enthusiasm to keep Dash motivated to keep learning each day.”

IMG_3165

At work – Officer Brenton Hoffman and his canine partner Dash making their first official rounds outside Toronto’s Union Station today (Oct.24) Photo by Nitish Bissonauth

According to Hoffman, he and Dash both feed off each other’s energy and that’s what helps them both to keep going.

What also helps is their living situation. Dash lives in a kennel at Hoffman’s home. During their training, they were taught to keep home life extremely boring and leave all the excitement for work.

VIDEO: See the K9 unit in action, sniffing out suspicious packages on the GO network and keeping you safe.  Dash is all business on the job, so sorry commuters you aren’t allowed to pet him.

 

“It’s challenging to be natural and reserved with Dash when I am with him for bathroom breaks or walks,” says Hoffman of the lab.

“He seems to have endless energy. The best part is seeing how excited he gets every time he gets out for a walk or when we head to work.”

Like an elite athlete, Dash watches his diet. Or at least Brenton keeps a close eye on the amount of dry food the dog is given, as the animal maintains a healthy weight that improves performance.

Many human officers would love to boast the muscle and lung capacity Dash is equipped with. To help keep in shape, he plays with his favourite piece of performance equipment – or toy – a simple tennis ball.

Both Dash and Brenton share a special bond. Since June, Dash has only known one handler, making the dog extremely obedient and more importantly, very friendly.

Image shows officer Hoffman sitting and holding Dash.

Dash and officer Brenton Hoffman, away from work.

“I have been the only one to feed, walk, praise and discipline him,” Hoffman says. “He looks to myself for his every move each day.”

The officer adds that Dash has a constant desire to work. It’s a motivation that’s contagious and makes life easier on the job – especially on days when humans can feel less motivated or tired.

If he’s not on patrol or at home, Dash waits in the back of a specially modified Transit Safety vehicle – a home on the go.

Dash and officer Hoffman standing outside Union Station

There are a lot of hidden spaces across the Metrolinx landscape, but that won’t stop officer Dash from deterring danger and keeping you safe.

Today, the unit is on full-time duty – patrolling GO transit areas and watching over the safety of customers.

But whether human or canine, at the end of shifts, the partners look for a quiet retreat in their shared Fortress of Solitude. Though agreed, Superman didn’t spend a lot of time fetching a tennis ball.

Story by Nitish Bissonauth, Metrolinx bilingual spokesperson, media relations and issues specialist.