It is not often that you have the opportunity to meet a rookie officer his first day on the job. On 31 August this year, I met Officer Nist and Marysville’s newest police officer, Officer Bear. The two were quite a contrast. Officer David Nist has always wanted to be a police officer. David’s mother remembers him playing police officer as a small boy, and drawing pictures of police officers. Officer Bear’s mother and father both served as police officers with distinction. Officer Nist, the consummate professional, polite, friendly, disciplined. During the interview both officers completely aware of their surroundings at all times. Officer Bear watched his partner constantly, following the lead of his more experienced partner; though Officer Bear’s youthfulness was apparent.
Originally, Officer Bear was intended as a replacement for officer Khan. Officer Khan a six-year veteran of the Marysville police department, and Officer Nist’s previous partner, was injured during training. The original prognosis was not good. The citizens of Marysville raised money for Khan’s medical bills, but Khan was still partially paralyzed. Khan would have to be euthanized. Officer Khan is a Belgian Malinois. How David Nist became the Marysville police department’s K-9 officer is an interesting story in its own.
In 1992/93 David Nist was a star athlete at college in Tiffin, Ohio. A wide receiver, and one of the fastest men on the team, David was challenged to race the Tiffin police department’s police dog to the end zone of the teams football field. The police dog lined up on the 50 yard-line, and David lined up on the 30 yard-line. David reached the end zone first because, as he tells the story, he was running scared. When the police dog caught David, it bit him and, “… ever since then I knew I wanted to be a K-9 officer”, he said laughing.
David graduated and became a Marysville police officer in 1996. After his one-year probation, the police chief asked David, “Would you like to start a k-9 unit?” His dream of more than four years was becoming a reality. David created the Marysville K-9 unit, writing all the procedures and policies; and seeking local support from the citizens, citizens groups, and employers in the area. Honda of America Manufacturing and the Eagles donated the money to purchase Marysville’s first police dog Indy. In 2005, Indy retired from active service.
It was at this time that two other dogs and one trainer needed to be trained for area law enforcement. David and his fellow officer trained the three dogs and received their certification as Master Police Dog Trainers; this would prove valuable for the Marysville police department and the people of Marysville. The training is a time consuming four and one half months. The dogs are trained every day during this time; the dogs don’t understand the concept of Sunday’s being a day of rest.
For the next six years, officers Khan and Nist were partners, until Khan’s injury. Khan’s recovery was quite miraculous, and unexpected by all, including the veterinarians. When David went to pick up Khan, the veterinarians surprised him with a financial donation of their own. The story of Khan’s hospital stay is both miraculous and hilarious; I promise to write a future article with the rest of the interview.
Khan’s first training session back on duty (the area K-9 units all train together monthly), one of the other K-9 dogs had puppies. David looked the puppies over and secretly chose one, then asked his fellow K-9 handlers for their opinions. It was unanimous Bear was the pick of the litter. Normally, a fully trained police dog costs about $14,000. With David’s certification as a Master Police Dog Trainer, he has undertaken the training of Bear, saving Marysville more than $10,000. Additionally, with Officer Khan back on duty, there is no down time for the K-9 unit while Officer Bear under goes his training.
How did David come up with the name Bear? He didn’t. A local 8-year-old girl took money out of her piggy bank to make a get-well card for Khan, so David let her name the new dog. What she did not know when she picked the name Bear, was that Bear was the name of a K-9 dog from another police department that Khan and David knew through the monthly area K-9 training sessions. Bear, the first Bear, and his handler (Bobby) both recently passed away. The naming of the new Bear was an unintended and fitting tribute to a K-9 team who faithfully serviced the citizens of their community for so many years.
Just a dog? No, police dogs are not “just a dog.” Handler and dog are a team, just as all law enforcement officers are a team with their partners. Learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses, handler and dog learn to read each other as few teams seldom do. The handler knows that in any situation, he/she can depend on their dog and the dog knows it can depend on its handler. They have each other’s back in every situation. The loss of a dog or handler, is as hard as the loss of a family member, and is felt as strongly by the other dogs as it is by the other handlers. A police dog is every bit as much of a police officer as its handler, and goes through the same tragedies and triumphs as its partner.
One week after my interview with Bear and David, I saw Khan and David on the side of the road working a traffic stop (Bear in the back of the K-9 patrol car). I felt a sense of comfort seeing Khan and David, serving and protecting the people of their community. During this Thanksgiving Holiday season, I am thankful for David Nist, Khan, Bear, and all the K-9 teams that keep us safe. As I write this, a K-9 unit somewhere is placing their lives at risk to protect us. While you are reading this, another K-9 unit somewhere is placing their lives at risk to protect us. At this holiday season I give thanks for our K-9 teams and pray for their protection.
Thank you David, Khan, and Bear, you reflect great credit upon yourselves, the Marysville Police Department, and the citizens of your community.