Work hard, play hard is one special dog’s motto in Terrace.
Meeting Eli, you’ll notice he’s not your regular canine companion — he saves lives and catches all the bad guys.
At seven-years-old, Eli is Terrace RCMP corporal Jarrod Trickett’s official partner and whenever the police need help in northern B.C., they’re the team to call. The only one in Terrace, Eli is an RCMP specifically-bred, highly-trained purebred German Shepherd who’s sharp nose and determination can locate narcotics, items and even people during an investigation.
“I’ll go there with the dog to help them look for tracks, suspects from crimes, and weapons if there’s a violent assault somewhere,” says Trickett. “We’re looking for DNA evidence like blood, body fluids, hair, or pieces of clothing… he will either sit or lay down next to it when he finds something.”
Born straight into an RCMP dog breeding program in Alberta, Eli was pre-destined for police work. From an early age, he was taught how to identify scents and tackle someone down during a chase.
“His drive is what we call ‘ball drive’, it’s so intense… with dog handling, you need to have a lot of patience, persistence and perseverance because they are genetically highly-driven dogs,” says Trickett. “You have to be able to train them well to bring out their natural abilities and with the proper training, they will develop into really great dogs.”
He says an RCMP puppy will undergo specialized training for approximately a year under an officer’s watch, who is responsible for an adequate amount of training and “imprinting on them” during duty. Each dog has a unique personality, so their handler must be able to alter their approach to ensure their success on the job.
Once the dog has gone through rigorous training and has met RCMP standards, they’re then paired with another officer who has also undergone specialized training on how to work with canines.
They’re set up as a potential team and to make sure their bond is unbreakable during high-stress situations, they must complete a series of tasks to officially graduate as a duo.
They then serve and live together, knowing when to relax and when they have to be serious.
“Everything has to be tested because if a dog team isn’t working properly together then these are major issues when it comes to court cases,” Trickett explains. “There has to be no issues with control, their tracking abilities or their criminal apprehension and searching abilities.”
When Trickett was partnered with Eli, he was a bit hesitant but was immediately reminded of his previous police dog, Brooke, when he met him. Brooke was with Trickett through the good and bad, both at work and home. During their day off at the beach, he came out of the water to him and suddenly passed away.
“He died when we were out swimming, he just came to my side at the heel position and collapsed, he fell over… I would have to say it was probably the worst day of my life,” he says.
For Trickett, it was a devastating and heartbreaking experience. He says the connection is indescribable as a team as both are synced and understand each other in a way no one else can compare to. The passing of his dog was like losing any member of the force and family, so he needed some time to mourn and heal.
When the news spread of Brooke’s unexpected death, his co-worker came across Eli in puppy training and intuitively knew this dog would be the perfect fit for Trickett when he was ready.
“I was contacted after a short period of time, asking if I’d be interested in taking this young dog. He’s a handful and needs someone with experience and patience to deal with them, so I said sure and they sent him out to me in July 2014,” says Trickett.
“I had that emotional attachment [to Brooke] that hadn’t been put in the proper place yet and then there’s this new guy and I was like, ‘Well, I guess I got to give all my feelings to you now’.”
But Trickett says there was an uncanny similarity between the two dogs and he barely had to change his training technique, which is often rare when acquiring a new canine partner. Very quickly, Eli and Trickett developed a powerful bond which he was surprised with but grateful to be able to share again.
Trickett believed the two of them were just coincidentally paired together but it wasn’t until after their graduation that he found out this had been planned all along.
Like Brooke, Eli is with him every day. He says during his days off, Eli is like any other regular dog and likes to be silly when playing. He goes for walks with his family, hangs out with the cat and likes to chew on his toys.
“I don’t put too much pressure on him, I just let him be a dog if there’s nothing happening… it gives him time to destress because his work can be very stressful,” Trickett says.
“He’s very, very responsive to me as the handler, he can be a bit of a knucklehead and acts like a teenage boy at times. He’s very goofy but he’s a great working dog, we’ve had a lot of good success with him.”
And when they’re called in for a case, Eli’s persona changes. Trickett says Eli can tell when it’s time to put his RCMP-trained skills into use. The radio starts crackling, the police vehicle is set into urgent motion and Eli puts his best paw forward.
“He knows when things are going on, he feeds off my adrenaline, he hears the sirens going and that we’re driving a little bit faster than normal,” says Trickett. “He really gets worked up and knows we’re going to work, that things are different when we put on his harness.”
On scene, Eli arrives focused and goal-oriented. Given any task, he’s determined to please and nothing can stop him from finding what he’s set out to find.
From police chases, apprehending suspects to spending several days in the rugged wilderness to uncover evidence, Eli proves beyond himself time and time again. But like with any job, he will eventually have to retire.
Oftentimes once a police dog’s health starts to deteriorate, they’re released from service.
Trickett says he plans on officially adopting Eli after spending so many years with him, and if the timing works out well, he hopes to retire together as he’s nearing the end of his career as well.
“He’s been with me for so long and we have such an incredible bond… dogs like this protect the handler to death and just love you unconditionally,” he says.
“There’s not many friendships you could have over the course of your life like this.”