Takedown by Toronto police dog
Toronto Police staff Sgt. Max Carter of Toronto’s Police Dog Services unit is standing with me in the middle of a fenced-in area of grass at 44 Beechwood Dr. in East York.
“I can tell you are getting nervous,” he says. His tone is soothing and supportive, but he is obviously entertained.
Nervous is right.
I’ve been squeezed into a padded safety suit used to train police dogs to take down suspects, usually by grabbing them by the arm to pull them off their feet.
This morning I am the suspect.
My reason for meeting with police is to learn more about dog behaviour in a variety of different scenarios.
I do not expect to ever tangle with Toronto Police or their highly trained canines on the street, but I did want to know what it felt like to be taken off my feet by a large dog.
Despite my plans to resist arrest, I cut about as fearsome a figure as an obese kid in a snowsuit. My black helmet is held on with a chin strap, my face is covered by a long plastic visor. I can bend my arms but I can’t use my hands. Staff Sgt. Carter has to pinch a mosquito off my cheek.
When I called police to explain the project, I'd requested a spin in the suit and was looking forward to the experience.
My pulse is pretty steady until Sgt. Jim Adamson walks his 38-kilogram German shepherd Sonik onto the field.
He is a beautiful dog with a wildly friendly disposition and giant brown eyes set into a head that would fit neatly on a mid-sized bear.
I have never felt an ounce of fear around him.
I am not afraid now, just very, very aware of his size.
Sonik knows exactly what is about to happen.
He sniffs me up and down and locks eyes with me until I am forced to look away.
My visor is steaming up.
At Adamson’s command – he yells at me that he wants to talk to me then tells me to stand still – I try to bolt.
The suit weights about 13.5 kilograms, but even at a full sprint it is unlikely a criminal would have much of a chance to get away.
Sonik is on my right arm in seconds, pulling me towards the ground. My instinct is to pull away and I am rewarded with a sharp yank that makes my feet blow out behind me and I land flat on my chest.
For a second he is toying with a piece of fabric near the back of my neck. No one has to remind me to lie still.
The second take-down is a bit smoother. This time I know how to crumple onto my side. I become less relaxed when the dog starts to drag me across the field.
My final two waddles with Sonik involve trainer defence.
That means I have to “hit” Sgt. Adamson to provoke the dog to come after me.
My first swat is pathetic (you try taking a swing at a police officer on cue), but the dog is delighted to take me down regardless.
The second time I get in a slightly bigger swing and am rewarded with another wipe-out on the grass.
“You need boxing lessons,” teases Sgt. Adamson.
Consider myself assigned.
Learn more about it: www.torontopolice.on.ca/mountedpds/
P.S. Thanks to the Star's Robyn Doolittle for the awesome camera work....and for laughing the entire time. Also, thanks to the Star's multi-media crew for cutting it up and putting it together.