Customers will soon begin seeing Special Constable Tyler Long and his K9 partner Dougie, around the GO Transit and UP Express networks. But let’s go out on patrol with them right now.
Sergeant Cam Cooper went to see a man about a dog.
It wasn’t, Dougie – but when he laid eyes on this friendly, energetic German Sheppard, he knew there was something special about this animal.
“Even at just nine months old, you could just tell this pup had a lot of potential,” said Cooper, Metrolinx transit safety K9 training supervisor. “Typically we like to wait until the dogs are a little bit older to begin their training, but Dougie has all the traits we love to see in a detection dog.”
Each four-legged member of the K9 team is carefully selected based on a combination of genetic and behavioural qualities.
While some breeds (such as German Sheppard’s like Dougie) do tend to make better detection dogs than others, the breed isn’t necessarily the most important genetic factor. In Dougie’s case, what Cooper noticed right away was his keen nose, unstoppable drive and his tremendous stamina.
With Dougie selected as a K9 candidate, Cooper said what came next is the most critical part of the process.
“I always say, training the dogs is the easy part,” he said jokingly. “Choosing and training a compatible handler is where the real work starts.”
Enter, Special Constable Tyler Long.
Long has worked at Metrolinx since 2016, but has been a Special Constable for more than a decade, coming to the Transit Safety team from the OPP’s Queen’s Park detachment.
While working around the legislature, he took on the challenge of helping to develop a new unit. It’s something he really enjoyed, and one reason this opportunity with the Metrolinx K9 team really interested him.
“The idea of working with a K9 partner is just awesome,” he said. “But I also really like the idea of being able to leave your mark on an organization and help develop something new.”
For Long, it’s also a bit of a life-long dream. Through his infectious laugh, he recalls seeing the movie ‘Turner and Hooch’ when he was a kid.
“I mean come on! Tom Hanks… Love interests… An awesome dog you never thought would be a good partner,” he says chuckling. “I guess you could call that a bit of a starting point for me.”
Toronto Police Services detection dogs have been working behind the scenes at Union Station, Canada’s largest transit hub, keeping customers safe since 2013.
But since the Summer of 2019, Metrolinx has used its own teams of 24-hour a day, on-call K9 teams to investigate suspicious objects in minutes – potentially saving GO Transit and UP Express customers hours in delays.
Back in March, Long’s colleague, Special Constable Will Ng and his K9 partner Tango were involved in a high profile incident out front of Union Station.
The pair were called in to investigate a suspicious package (a large box) that was left unattended in front of the station along Front Street.
No explosives were found, though Toronto Police investigators say it’s likely the container held pyrotechnics some time previously. Those trace elements set off Tango’s response – which is exactly what he was trained for.
As for Dougie, he and Special Constable Long will continue to cultivate trust during their training – and at home.
In case you’re wondering, Dougie lives in a kennel at Long’s house. These dogs aren’t considered pets, but rather are working professionals that need the same rest and relaxation as their human counterparts.
It’s the goal of the handlers to keep their home life relaxing and as relatively boring as possible to leave all the excitement (or play as the dog’s see it) for work.
If you see Special Constable Long and Dougie around the network, feel free to say “hi.” But please remember, while the dogs are friendly, the Transit Safety team does ask customers to respect their space when they’re on duty.
Story by Matt Llewellyn, Metrolinx spokesperson and senior advisor, media relations and issues.