Once 82-pound German Shepherd Danto saw his red Kong toy, it became the entire focus of his life.
When his handler, Orange Police Department K9 Officer Damon Allen hid the toy behind the podium in the agency’s conference room, nothing else mattered. Danto knew where the Kong was and would not be deterred.
As he posed for a photo with his new handler, the only thing that kept his attention was the sight of that most prized toy.
Finally – after what felt like an eternity to Danto, but was actually closer to 15 minutes – the dog got his toy.
Playful as he is at 1 year and 8 months, Danto can go from play mode to work mode in a heartbeat, according to Allen.
“He knows how to flip the switch when it comes to working,” Allen said.
Allen, who has been a K9 officer since 2014, selected Danto on June 4. After six weeks of training, they began patrolling Orange on July 17.
This wasn’t a planned addition of a new K9 for the agency. Sadly, Allen’s previous K9 partner, German Shepherd 9-year-old Bosco passed away unexpectedly. He was euthanized on April 4 after it was discovered he had cancer.
“That’s probably the hardest decision of any K9 handler,” Allen said.
The bond between a K9 handler and dog is hard to describe. A handler spends more time with their K9 than almost anyone else – at work and at home.
“The responsibility is almost like having your child with you,” Allen said.
Because of that deep bond, Allen made the decision that rather than extend Bosco’s suffering, he would let him rest.
Bosco worked ’til the end. That same day he was part of a K9 demonstration, which Allen said he performed in 100 percent. After the demonstration, Bosco seemed unwell.
“He did perfect on his demonstration,” Allen said. “He didn’t have any issues.”
As an apprehension dog, Bosco was serious about his job and always performed to his fullest, Allen said. He had enough stamina for four-hour standoffs and any other police situations required of him.
“If you wanted him to do it, he would do it,” Allen said, adding that Bosco saved his life more than once. “[It] was definitely a pleasure working with him… He got to do his job to the fullest.”
He was a serious dog, but not without some funny stories. Allen recalled one time they were checking a stolen vehicle for suspects. Bosco found nothing suspicious, but did help himself to a snack.
“No suspects were found, but he came out carrying a burrito,” Allen said.
Bosco’s loss hit Allen’s family hard, but the new addition is helping them move forward. Danto shares the house with two other German Shepherds, so he has plenty to do at home, too.
Danto – who is from Czechoslovakia – stands out from other K9s in a very special way. His left ear is floppy instead of the straight pointed ear typical of German Shepherds. His ear just never stood up, and that’s one of the things Allen likes about him — it makes him look more like a regular house dog.
And from the way he gnawed on his red Kong toy on his first official day of the job, he seemed perfectly content.
“He catches a lot of flak from the other K9 handlers,” Allen said about the floppy ear. “To me, it’s unique and adds character.”
Read more about Orange PD’s K9s: