Police Dog Is Family, Too

Anton retires from the Santa Monica Police Department after 7 ½ years of service.

Scroll through the photos on police Sgt. Douglas Kohno's cell phone to find there's just as many of his dog Anton as there are of his four kids.

There's one of his youngest girl, then a toddler, grinning widely and hugging tightly the Belgian Malinois, a trained police canine adept at sniffing out criminal suspects. The girl is now six, and Anton is living out his golden years in the care of the Kohno family.

He retired officially this month after 7 ½ years of service with the , all of them spent with Kohno.

"You're with the canine more than you're with any other family member, you do get attached to the dog," he said. "He's like my fifth kid."

The strong bonds often formed between canine officers and their dogs begin during six-week training course. Once they complete the program, the team begins working together in the community.  At the end of their work shift the dogs return home to live with their officers.

It's the police department's policy to transfer ownership of the canines that have reached the end of their service life to their handlers for a nominal sum—in this case, $1.

Kohno admitted that Anton probably had some years left in him to continue working, but he preferred to see his "strong, stubborn and loyal" companion's final years extended in comfort at home with the family that has grown so attached.

The police department credited Anton with numerous felony arrests. For Kohno, the most memorable was in the fall of 2009, when the canine unit was called to help search for two Inglewood teenagers suspected of attempted murder.

The victim, also a teen, was wounded in the leg in a gang-related shooting that happened near Seventh and Marine streets after a football game between Santa Monica and Venice high schools. Officers chased the suspects down the 10 Freeway before they jumped out of their car at the Centinela Avenue offramp, down an embankment and into a West Los Angeles neighborhood.

With a helicopter and dogs, officers set up a large perimeter that extended from Bundy Drive to Pearl Street to the I-10, according to published reports.

Kohno said that Anton located investigators' main suspect hiding behind a fountain in a dark backyard. The suspect "could've ambushed us, so wet sent Anton about 30 feet of ahead of us," he said. "Anton pulled him out of the cover and into the patio area."

The lure of getting to work "exciting and dangerous" cases is what compelled Kohno to apply to be a canine handler.

"They're supposed to be a tool," he said of the dogs, but he credits Anton, who sleeps next to him at night, with saving his daughter from falling down a flight of stairs in their home after he accidentally left a baby gate unlocked.

At home, "he's friendly and really nice," but the minute Kohno would put on his canine uniform and start his patrol car Anton's personality completely switched and he "would acknowledge only me."

Carl Hamilton January 31, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Fantastic story. What a bond.


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