City retires police dog after 11 years of service
By Rebekah Martin
On a cold January morning, Sgt. James Daniel let his dog Kis out of the gate and allowed him to run and play. Dutch commands echoed across the front yard as the Opelika Police Department’s newest retiree followed Daniel’s direction with no hesitation.
Kis, an 11-year-old Belgian Malinois, is a six year veteran of the OPD. The Opelika City Council officially authorized his retirement at its last meeting Jan. 5. Kis is now living a life of luxury with his handler and best friend.
Daniel joined the police department in Dec. 2004 and became a handler in the K9 division six years ago. Kis spent his entire career under the care of Daniel and has been Daniel’s faithful companion both on the job and off. “You kind of have to feel them out because a dual-purpose dog is very different from a single-purpose dog because of their drive and mentality. They have a higher drive, they can be aggressive, and they’re trained to do different things. You have to be cautious, but you can’t be scared,” Daniel said. Kis hails from Belgium and was trained at Alabama Canine in Tuscaloosa. He is highly trained in several aspects of police work, including narcotics, patrol work, apprehension, building searches and handler protection. When the police department purchased Kis six years ago, the total cost was $12,000. Daniel said in his years on the job, Kis has paid for himself multiple times over. “I know for a fact that he has kept me from getting into altercations with people in the past, just by his presence. He’s diffused situations that we will never know about because people sometimes are worried about what he can do and what he will do if it goes bad,” Daniel said. “All of our dogs are invaluable, if just for the security blanket they provide for the citizens and for our officers.” The Opelika Police Department K-9 department is made up of three dual-purpose dogs, two narcotics dogs and one tracking dog.
According to Daniel, innumerable man-hours have gone into Kis’s training. “They go through training daily … no matter if it’s obedience training, narcotics or just patrol work. You have to because they’re dogs, they’re going to screw up,” Daniel said. “It’s about repetition – repetition is what makes the dog better, and also what makes the handler better, so whenever a stressful situation arises, you know what the hell to do. It’s almost instinct. Bottom line, these dogs react off of you. If you’re hyped up, amped up, they can feel that. It can mess them up, but it all depends on how y’all train together and how used the dog is to you.”
Daniel said Kis is transitioning into the role of a domestic protector now that his years as a service dog have come to an end. While he is no longer walking the beat, he holds down the fort at home, giving Daniel peace-of-mind knowing his family is protected by the best. “I go into work easier, knowing that he’s here with them. I know what he’s capable of and I know what he will do if someone tries to come in and do them harm,” he said.
Daniel also said retired life is already treating Kis well. “He eats pretty much whatever he wants to now, he gets treats, as before he wouldn’t. “On cold nights, he gets to sleep inside in his crate. He’s spoiled, but loving it.” However, Kis’s new lifestyle has not caused him to forget about his old job. “Now he gets to relax, chill and enjoy life. He enjoyed it before though … he loved going to work, he stills wants to go to work. It’s hard on both of us. It’s hard to see him at the gate watching me leave everyday,” Daniel said.
Over the years, Kis has become a cornerstone of the Daniel family. “I’ve spent more time with him than I have with my family. That’s just the way it is. You’re at work for 12 hours and he’s with you the whole time. He’s lived with me the better part of the past four years, so we’ve been together all that time,” Daniel said.
Kis is now an old-timer in dog years and Daniel said dogs of his breed usually start going down at his age, but Kis seems to be an exception. “He’s a pretty healthy dog, he just thinks he’s younger than he actually is,” he said. “He’ll be with me for another 11 years I hope. I hope he’s with me for a long time and my daughter and him will be great together.”