Tazer, the German Shepherd K-9 out of Newberry Township Police, and I have a weird relationship — I hold out my arm, and he bites it.
And with relish, because as his partner, Sgt. Chris Martinez tells me, Tazer looks at me like I’m a toy, and it’s his job to play.
The first time was two years ago. I donned a bite sleeve and said things like “No”, “Stop” and even his name to try to get him to let go. But that’s the thing — Tazer listens only to Martinez, and only in his native tongue, Czech.
Last week, YDR photographer Jason Plotkin and I upped the ante and threw on the entire bite suit. I figured I’d put my body on the line so readers would not have to.
Imagine your arm is in a vice you might find on a workbench, and the insides of the vice are outfitted with metal spikes.
That’s Tazer. Intense pressure, combined with sudden pain.
With that comes the overwhelming thought that you are caught. There is no hope, you will not get free. That’s what makes police dogs such valuable partners to police officers.
Slipping on the sleeve was easy, but I needed serious help getting the entire suit on. There was so much bulk, I could not even tie my shoes. Once it’s on, you feel like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. And running? Forget about it, it’s like your ankles are shackled. Taking the suit off, I was drenched in sweat; I probably dropped at least 10 pounds.
We filmed on a grassy strip of land by the Newberry Township Police department. Martinez put me through some of the scenarios they practice at Castle’s K-9 in Mechanicsburg, where he and Tazer train regularly.
We did the bite while facing him and then another scenario where I yell “I give up, I give up!” before Tazer reaches me and Martinez calls him off. Tazer stops on a dime, but he gives you this saliva-dripping bark like, “Ooh man, if I could only get my jaws on you …”
Here’s what’s great, during a bite, Tazer re-clamps several times, so the pain sears through your arm in waves, which is awesome.
Martinez instructed me to praise Tazer after each clamp. Praise him, are you kidding me? This animal is trying to tear my arm off! But you have to let him know he is doing a good job, so I told him “Good boy,” “Good Tazer” and even did a little Ace Ventura.
Another fun part — when Martinez tells Tazer to let go, he gives me one more chomp before running off like he’s saying, “Here’s something to remember me by, buddy.”
Seeing something coming at you is one thing. But how about when you’re running away and you know this predator is bearing down on you, but just don’t know exactly when, or how, it’s going to strike.
Yep, that was my least favorite scenario. Stand with your back to the dog, put your arms out to the sides, and run.
Bad guys are always given a chance to surrender. If they are hiding, Martinez will tell them he’s sending Tazer in after them. Some of them don’t believe him, until it’s too late.
The next few days after filming, the bruises on my arms really started to look like giant blue-and-purple Rorschach inkblots. Without the suit, more than likely, I would have suffered a broken arm or my triceps would have been hanging off my arm like a side of beef on a meat hook.
So, if you happen to run afoul with the law, and an officer says he’s going to send in the dog, or you happen to see a K-9 bearing down on you, give up. You’ll thank me later.