The memory of Const. Dave Ross still looms large over the grounds at the RCMP Police Dog Services Training Centre south of Innisfail, especially this month as his former canine partner Danny has returned to retrain and bond with a new handler.
Ross was one of three RCMP officers gunned down in Moncton, N.B., in June.
“Every time I come here, through the summer I came here once a week, I always think of Dave Ross and Danny,” said Insp. Andrew Lemyre, officer in charge of the RCMP Police Dog Services.
“Dave was a person who was devoted and he was so happy to be here.”
Danny was briefly on the show grounds at the centre on Wednesday. He is getting ready to return to service and Lemyre said the RCMP hope he will be in service for five more years.
“I know, I believe, that Dave would say ‘I want the dog to be with a new dog handler.’”
Lemyre would not disclose who Danny’s new handler is or where they will be posted. He said it is important to not release the information so they can keep their attention focused on the work they are doing.
“He is one of our top dogs and this dog is a police dog first and foremost,” said Lemyre. “He can’t be considered a family pet, he has been trained and his focus is all about what he has learned.”
Danny’s retraining with his new partner has been going well, said Lemyre.
“We re-team dogs,” said Lemyre. “When a member leaves the service, the dog is still a good police dog and often we will take the dog and re-team it with a new handler.”
Danny is trained in criminal apprehension, search, retrieve and tracking, as well as obedience and agility.
Ross and two other RCMP officers were killed by gunman Justin Bourque on June 4, and two more officers were wounded. Bourque pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder on Aug. 8. His sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 27.
On June 10, Danny attended the memorial service for Ross, Const. Fabrice Gevaudan and Const. Douglas Larche. He was heard whimpering through the ceremony and sniffing Ross’s hat during the procession.
Danny was born on Sept. 7, 2011, at the training centre. At just eight weeks old, he was sent to Vancouver Island to start his training, by being imprinted — a period of rapid learning — with an aspiring RCMP PDS officer.
On Dec. 4, 2012, Danny met Ross in Moncton and on April 22, 2013, they came to the training centre to begin their formal training. Danny and Ross graduated from the training centre on Aug. 30, 2013, and were sent back to Moncton.
Danny has begun bonding with his new handler. The training and bonding process at the centre for the new pair started earlier this month. Lemyre said they will return to active duty shortly.
“Danny has confidence and a very high drive, which makes him an excellent police service dog,” said Lemyre. “He is performing a service he loves.”
A typical police dog serves until they are eight-years-old and are then retired.
“A year ago Const. Dave Ross and Danny were running and training together in this field,” said Lemyre. “We will never forget our fallen members.”