One of the three officers killed last week by a gunman in Moncton was in his first year as a police dog handler after training in 2013 at the RCMP’s Police Dog Service Training Centre near Innisfail.
RCMP Const. Dave Ross, 32, graduated from the five-month course last August with Danny, his German shepherd.
Ross and Danny made up one of 157 RCMP dog teams across the country.
RCMP Insp. Andre Lemyre, officer in charge of training centre, said Ross is the fourth dog handler to die in the line of duty.
“He was dedicated and devoted to all and to what he was doing,” Lemyre said on Tuesday.
Ross, Const. Fabrice Gevaudan and Const. Douglas Larche were gunned down on the evening of June 4 after responding to a report of a man with firearms in a residential neighbourhood. Justin Bourque, 24, of Moncton, faces three charges of first-degree murder.
The trainer who worked with Ross and Danny was in Moncton on Tuesday to attend the funeral for the three fallen officers.
RCMP Sgt Eric Stebenne, another trainer at the Innisfail centre, said it takes years to get the chance to be a handler. Officers must spend weekends and evenings helping local handlers train. They learn how to rear RCMP puppies and must raise numerous puppies over a minimum of two years.
“All of this is done on their own time. They all have jobs. They have families,” Stebenne said.
Then comes training at the national dog training centre between Bowden and Innisfail along Hwy 2.
Recertification of each dog team is required every year, including annual fitness tests for handlers.
Stebenne said Danny, who will be three years old this year, is too young to retire. Danny will eventually be brought back to the centre and paired and trained with an existing dog handler who is looking for a dog.
Dogs can also be “reteamed” if their handler retires or leaves the section.
He said Danny will be looked after by a dog handler for the next few weeks rather than Ross’s family, who would definitely be given the opportunity to say their goodbyes.
“Being a fully trained dog, we wouldn’t want to leave the dog in the care of civilians.”
Dogs and their handlers in training at the centre participate in weekly public demonstrations between Victoria Day and Labour Day on Wednesdays at 2 p.m. Shows run 45 minutes, rain or shine. Admission is free.