Scottsdale police officer Chris Coffee and his new partner have a close relationship. They train together everyday, work side-by-side and even live together.
Coffee, 38, has been with the department nine years. His partner, who is Czechoslovakian and goes by the name Striker, is a three-year veteran who will turn 35 in June.
In dog years, Striker is a 4-year-old pure-bred Czech shepherd, one of six K-9 dogs working in the Scottsdale Police Department.
Saturday and Sunday , Coffee and Striker will join almost 60 other K-9 teams from around the Southwest in the fifth annual Desert Dog Regional Police K-9 Trials at Scottsdale Stadium.
“The competition is set up for real-life scenarios,” Coffee said. “We don’t train specifically for the trials. It’s just what we encounter in the street.”
And that training is a 24-hour-a-day job.
“It really takes about a year to really become comfortable with the dog,” said Coffee, who was paired with Striker about a year ago. Coffee went through a six-week basic handler development school and then bomb detection school for seven weeks when he first signed on with the K-9 unit.
The training is ongoing, said Scottsdale’s senior K-9 unit officer Owen Keefe.
“You invest a lot and it’s usually someone that wants to be in this unit,” Keefe said. “They train the most, more so than the SWAT teams. They train weekly as a unit and daily as teams. It’s a lot of commitment, a lot of work. You have to want it.”
And part of “wanting it” is taking the job home, something Coffee said he enjoys.
“He’s with me more than my family,” Coffee said.
“We work together. He comes home with me. We go everywhere together.”
When Striker’s at home, he’s a regular dog, Coffee said. Striker gets along with his other two dogs: a cocker spaniel and a cocker-Shih Tzu mix, both diminutive compared with Striker.
Even at home, Striker is still a working dog. He’s not allowed on furniture and is on a very strict diet to keep him prepared for the field.
And it’s those real-life situations that make Striker and his colleagues so valuable. Striker is asked to conduct high-risk area searches and is often sent to clear an open space before officers are sent inside.
Coffee hopes to get about five more years from Striker before retiring him to the comforts of his house.
Maybe then he’ll be even allowed on the furniture.
What: Desert Dog Regional Police K-9 Trials
When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Scottsdale Stadium
Admission: Free, though a $1 donation is suggested.