Josh Assayag is first officer on a United Airlines 787, on active duty with the U.S. Air National Guard, and a reserve deputy with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, where he works patrol and air support.
But that’s not all.
Assayag is the OC Sheriff’s Department’s newest K9 handler, working with bloodhound puppy Remi.
Assayag came to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department from the Irvine Police Department, where he was a full-time officer and associate member of the Major Accident Investigation Team, while also working DUI and distracted driving enforcement. After two years at Irvine PD, he returned to flying commercial airlines and became an Irvine PD reserve.
When he joined the OCSD reserves in December 2016, they asked if he’d be interested in handling a bloodhound.
“There aren’t a whole lot of people volunteering to handle a slobbery, stinky dog full time, but the reality is there aren’t a whole lot of reserves that have the time to commit to something like this,” Assayag said. “It turns into a full-time job… A lot of them have the desire to do it, they just don’t have the availability.”
Assayag trains Remi every day, in addition to his regular reserve hours and job. Right now, he’s acclimating the pup to sounds and scents she may encounter working with the OCSD.
Before Remi arrived from a New York breeder, Assayag worked briefly with the Santa Ana Police Department’s bloodhound, Rosie. The bloodhounds will serve every agency in Orange County, as needed, to find missing people and suspects.
“There aren’t too many work places in the world where you can come to work and you save lives on a daily basis, and we certainly are able to do that here,” he said.
Assayag, a tactical flight officer on the OCSD Duke helicopters, began his love affair with flying at age 8 while visiting an uncle in the Air Force.
“I got to go in a flight simulator and I was pretty much hooked,” Assayag said. “I decided I wanted to be a pilot when I grew up.”
At age 12, he called flight schools to book his first lesson.
“The rest is pretty much history,” he said.
After graduating from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona, he joined the Air Force Reserves, and flew C-17s for nearly eight years at March Air Force Base.
“Air support was really an opportunity for me to combine my passion for aviation and my passion for law enforcement, and that has been a very special experience for me,” Assayag said.
Assayag lives in Orange County with his wife, Kristin, 21-month-old daughterm Collette, golden retriever, Halo, and Remi. The bloodhound has accompanied Assayag to the shooting range, the airport, and on patrol shifts. She’s surprisingly calm around loud sounds she hasn’t encountered before.
“At the range, she was rock solid,” he said. “Noise didn’t even faze her.”
Just one thing has caused Remi agitation: sliding doors at big-box stores.
To help Remi feel more comfortable, Assayag sat with her in front of the doors for about 15 minutes in front of a local Target, rewarding her with a treat each time she calmly sat through the rhythmic whoosh of the doors sliding open and shut.
Being a K9 handler is the culmination of a three-pronged dream in Assayag’s reserve career.
“The three things I ever wanted to do in law enforcement were ride a motor, handle a dog, and fly a helicopter, and I’ve done all three as a reserve,” Assayag said.