A new sheriff in town: Meet the RPD’s police dog
Officer Shawn Murray spends his on-duty and off-duty time with Loki, RPD’s new police dog.
Photos by Scott mullin
No one in Ridgefield will soon forget the emotional sendoff of K-9 officer Zeus earlier this year. His service and dedication to the town of Ridgefield and the Ridgefield Police Department will be remembered just as much as the touching farewell known as “Zeus’ Last Ride.”
But now, there’s a new sheriff in town. His name is Loki: he’s a two-year old German shepard who’s been on the job for a few months and is already making his mark. “It was tough getting used to a different dog. I was so used to Zeus. We were together almost nine years,” says Officer Shawn Murray, who trains and lives with Loki, just as he did with Zeus. He says that Loki is friendlier with people than Zeus was, and loves going on school visits.
Like Zeus, Loki is a dual-purpose dog, trained for both narcotics and patrol work, which means he sniffs out drugs, and tracks for suspects and lost people. So far, he’s had one successful track—a suspect that Loki found in a pile of snow. “They can smell things that we as humans could never smell,” says Murray.
It’s fascinating to watch Loki sniff out drugs that are hidden in the patrol car. He immediately smells them, then zeros in on the exact hiding spot, where he quietly sits down and waits for a toy. “He’s a passive indicator, unlike Zeus, who was an aggressive indicator and would scratch at the site,” says Murray. “It’s fun for him. If he finds it, he gets a toy.”
Loki knows the difference between searching for a “good person” (someone who is lost) and a “bad person” (a suspect on the run) based on the commands and rewards. For finding the good person, he gets a toy. For finding the bad person? Well, potentially it’s the bad person, but that’s rare. “The biggest reward is a bite on a person, but they hardly get those bites,” Murray says. Most suspects are terrified when they see a dog, and quickly back down. If Loki must bring down a suspect, Murray can send the command to stop.
“One thing you can’t do with a taser or a gun is call it back,” he says. “But a dog, you can call back.”
All commands are in German, “basically so people can’t scream stuff at him,” however, he only listens to Murray.
Murray says he’s been a dog person his whole life. Before he came to Ridgefield in 1997, there was no K-9 officer here. Murray had worked with the canine unit at his prior post in Missouri and took on the role when he got to town.
In the Murray household, Loki is much like any other family dog, who’s allowed on the furniture (but doesn’t go up much) and loves getting belly rubs. Murray’s wife helps take him out and feed him, but he’s with Murray all the time. “I’m with him more than I am with my family,” Murray says. “He’s awesome with my one-year-old. I trust that dog like nobody else.”
Loki was born in Hungary, and was one of eight dogs brought to Connecticut last October by a master trainer from New Milford, who scouts out dogs that seem best suited for police work. While there, he sends videos to police departments that are looking for a new dog.
Murray got the pick of the litter, since he had been through the training process with Zeus. Once Loki arrived, Murray knew for sure that he was the one when he was the only dog to spit out the sleeve when going after a decoy. “Most dogs hold onto the sleeve as an award or trophy, but he spit it out and went back after the guy,” says Murray.
“Loki is very friendly, until I give him the command. He can turn within a second into a different dog. He can read people’s body language and knows who’s a threat and who’s not.”
“I would rather go out with a dog than with ten officers,” he says. “They’ll put their life on the line for you. It’s like wearing a bullet proof vest... I couldn’t see myself doing anything other than this.”
Original name: Coco.
New name: Loki (god of mischief). “He learned to open the window in the cruiser.”
Breed: German Shepard.
Weight: 72 lbs.
Languages: Hungarian, German, English (his original commands were in Hungarian).
Interests: Running, belly rubs, toys.