Stories of heroism and courage are abundant, but often times they are overlooked when it comes to our canine friends. Below you'll read about two incredible dogs that work with arson investigators, and how their special abilities have helped solve hundreds of cases, train other dogs, and extend their presence all throughout the community.
More than a Decade of Service
After more than twenty years of military and State Police service as a K9 handler, Sargent Rinker's most memorable partner was a hero with four legs. A police dog story in the news may have a moment in the lime light, but Reno, a Belgian Malinois arson dog, was a continuous story of heroism for eleven years.
Off Leash but On Scent
Sargent Rinker and Reno worked (and lived) side by side 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from 2001 to 2012. During that time Reno's character shone through in solving literally hundreds of arson cases. Like many other dogs in the military and police force, Reno was trained to sniff for particular items–a discipline that allowed him to identify accelerants so the State Police force could successfully solve cases that varied in complexity. His ability to work off leash and communicate well with his handler, though, brought Reno to solve arsons quickly, safely, and within a reasonable budget set by the police force. Without Reno's hard work and dedication, cases of serial arson, homicide, and even attempted homicide might've gone unsolved.
Sargent Rinker fully credits Reno with helping to keep dangerous people off the streets.
Teaching the Next Generation
Nevertheless, Reno's heroic actions reached well beyond the burned buildings where he and Rinker spent many days on the job. Reno absolutely loved children, and one of his best performances was when he entered a school to teach kids about fire safety. Whether it was in a classroom or full auditorium, the gorgeous pup always captured the attention of his audience and made a connection with every child watching. He was a hero kids instantly connected with and easily learned from–what heroism is truly about.
Constant devotion to keeping people safe and making a lasting connection with the community, according to Sargent Rinker, was just the tip of Reno's distinguished career. As he prepared for retirement, he trained his successor, Birkl, and continued to live on as a companion to Sargent Rinker.
A Value That Spreads
Although Reno has since passed away, the importance of arson dogs is ever evident all over the world. Every year the Humane Society of the United States calls for nominations for the Hero Dog Awards, and for the second year in a row, a Pennsylvania arson dog–just like Reno–is in the running. Judge, a seven-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, is known around his community as a triple threat to crime. His handler, Fire Chief Laubach, has worked with this arson dog for the last seven years to train him as an investigator, deterrent, and educator.
Together, Laubach and Judge have done over 500 community presentations and helped investigate over 275 fire scenes in both their local and surrounding communities.
When it comes to the resonance of a heroic police dog story, arson dogs like Judge and Reno are often overlooked. However, arson dogs have amazing abilities that, at times, look and seem simply impossible to the average pet parent. Judge is trained in identifying sixty-one different chemical combinations and has a nonstop drive to work. He never quits to eat a meal from a bowl; all his food is consumed day and night from the hand of Chief Laubach. Another statistic that could put Judge at the top of the 2016 Hero Dog nominations is the measurable impact his work has had: since his arrival to the Fire Department staff, there's been a 52-percent decrease in arson cases in the city of Allentown.
In addition to their daily devotion to their handlers and communities, both Reno and Judge have been crucial in various police dog pilot programs. Currently, Judge is helping with a pilot program that works with children who have autism. He also continues to promote fire safety in schools, clubs, and large community events.
Reno and Judge are just two examples of the many police dog heroes that work behind the scenes to help keep their communities safe. Without arson dogs, many fire cases would be unsolved and more lives would be endangered. Thankfully, through social media, dog lovers can continue to spread the news about four-legged heroism.
Image sources: Sargent Rinker, Chief Laubach
Chrissie Klinger is an educator, writer, and mother of two children, three dogs, and three cats who enjoys living an active and eco-friendly lifestyle.