Photo Courtesy of Chad Reyes
Pet Story: Police Dog Makes Ultimate Sacrifice To Save Owner’s Life, Wins AKC Paw of Courage Award
In July 2017, Sergeant Chad Reyes of the Unified Police of Greater Salt Lake, Utah, lost his beloved companion, K-9 Dingo—a dog he calls “my closest friend, the best friend I’ll ever have.”
Dingo was actually Reyes’ second police dog. His first dog, a German Shepherd named Trono, wasn’t quite cut out for a job.
“Trono was a good dog, however he just didn’t have the right stuff to be a police dog,” Reyes says. “After discovering Trono would be better served working in a smaller police department and returning him to his vendor, my search for Dingo began.”
How Dingo Became “The One”
This pet story began in the late fall of 2012 when one of the police department’s K-9 vendors began searching the world for Reyes’ next partner. Reyes reviewed dogs from the Czech Republic, Germany, Holland and finally Mexico, where Dingo lived.
“Dingo was just under 2 years old at the time, and the vendor believed he was ‘the one,’” Reyes says. “I viewed several videos of the selection tests Dingo went through, and something felt very right while I watched and witnessed Dingo’s strength, courage and intelligence. Dingo was shipped directly to me from Mexico and arrived here in Salt Lake on Jan. 30, 2012, in a beat-up crate held together with chicken wire.”
Love at First Sight
Reyes and Dingo hit it off from the beginning.
“I’ve had many dogs over the course of my lifetime and have loved each one of them, but I have never experienced a bond like the one I had with Dingo,” Reyes says.
Dingo was with Reyes each moment of his day, every day, at work and at home. They relied on each other to get their jobs done and keep each other safe.
“Over the 5 years we were paired together, Dingo and I went on many deployments,” Reyes says.
Because Dingo was trained in several areas of police work, he and Reyes could take on different tasks. In fact, many police dogs are “multi-purpose” dogs and perform a variety of functions, including detection work (narcotics and explosives), protection work, apprehension, tracking, evidence and human searching.
“Dingo was trained and very proficient in all areas,” Reyes says.
Dingo, however, was a lot more than just a police dog—he was a companion.
“We became very in tune with each other’s body language, and we were very adept at understanding each other’s thoughts and intentions,” Reyes says. “Dingo was literally an extension of my own being, and losing him was like losing part of my self, similar to losing one of your senses.”
Dingo Was Tough at Work and Sweet at Home
At the end of the day, Dingo would go home with Reyes and entertain the family by spinning in constant circles, trying to entice anybody around into playing with him. Or, when he sensed somebody was in need, he’d cuddle with them on the couch or lie on their feet.
“Dingo had an extraordinary ability to be a tough police dog at work and a sweet lap dog at home,” Reyes says. “Dingo did everything with us, whether it was a trip to the store or a fishing vacation on our boat; he was unlike any other dog we’ve ever had and was truly a member of our family.”
How Dingo Saved His Owner’s Life, Twice
The bond Reyes and K-9 Dingo shared not only changed Reyes’ life, but also saved it. Twice.
“He came home with me after the first incident, but he had to sacrifice his own life to save mine the second time,” Reyes says.
In July 2017, when in pursuit of a criminal trying to evade capture, Dingo was fatally shot.
“I’ve been through an unwanted divorce after a 20-year relationship; the loss of my youngest brother, who I had adopted as my own son after our mother passed away; the line of duty death of two close friends; and through a shooting in which my close friend’s police canine, Aldo, also gave his life to save mine and his handler’s,” Reyes says. “Through all those losses, Dingo was there for me. The pain of losing him was more difficult than any one of those separate incidents because, as I mentioned, he was part of myself.”
The Crime of Killing a Police Dog
Since losing Dingo, Reyes has been campaigning for enhanced punishment for the crime of intentionally killing a police dog.
“Currently, in Utah, it is only a third-degree felony to kill a police dog, punishable by 0-5 years in prison,” Reyes says.
In comparison, it’s a higher offense to graffiti or vandalize property worth over $5,000.
“The disparity is vast to me and we need to have it fixed,” he adds.
While a new proposed law that would offer harsher penalties for injuring a police dog looks promising, Reyes says there’s still a lot of work to do.
“Regardless of what happens with the law, I will forever honor Dingo’s memory in my heart,” Reyes says
For his heroism on the line of duty, K9 Dingo recently received The American Kennel Club’s 2018 AKC Paw of Courage. The award recognizes the working canines who put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe.
Diana Bocco is a full-time writer and adventurer who has written for National Geographic, DiscoveryChannel.com, Yahoo! and Marie Claire. Diana has lived in five countries and taken her rescued dogs along to each one of them.