Give That Dog a Bone: Local Police Officer Retires After 42 Years of Service (In Dog Years!)

By Melissa Gray

The bid a fond farewell to one of its finest members. K9 Kyzer, veteran officer with 42 dog years of service, retired as his handler, Lieutenant Charles (Chuck) Gray, moved permanently to his new position as Division Commander of the Criminal Investigations Unit. Gray provisionally filled the position when Chief Paul Gallagher was promoted from it in August, 2011.

Kyzer is certified to apprehend criminals, recover articles, conduct friendly searches and detect certain narcotics such as cocaine and heroin. He and Gray trained at the Boston Police K9 Academy under the mentorship of Troy Casey, head trainer.

Over the past six years, Kyzer has served the department and surrounding communities well. He’s done it all, in fact: from chasing wild turkeys out of intersections where they are disrupting traffic to finding drug hides in motor vehicles, and from locating missing persons to apprehending criminals. If you ask him, it’s all in a day’s work.

Really, though, Kyzer is the kind of hero that comes around only once in a while. His work drive is altruistic: the thrill of a pursuit or the pleasure of a find are all he needs to get excited about work. His favorite reward is a game of ball. The most driving force for performing his job well is simply for the love of his handler. It’s a bond like no one would ever imagine. This I know because Kyzer’s handler happens to be my husband.

Having Kyzer as part of our home has been a privileged, nail-biting, heart-wrenching, and sometimes even squeamish experience. But I wouldn’t trade any of it for a box of Milk-Bones. I’ve seen this K9 and handler form a partnership. I’ve seen what makes this dog tick. I’ve even seen the softer side of Kyzer, the one that almost no one gets to see and it’s something quite incredible. The right shoulder of Chuck’s uniform is slobber-soaked every day because Kyzer rests his head there while they drive around town on patrol.

In the middle of the night

Not always, but often enough, our phone rings at unreasonable hours. With midnight long-gone and dawn still hours away, Chuck gets out of bed and suits up to go find the “bad-guys”, as our children would say. This is the nail-biting part. Kyzer, who already began whining at the first ring (he knows the phone is for him if it rings past 9 p.m.), is ready to work on a moment’s notice. They get packed in the cruiser and I listen as the roar of the engine fades into the distance and the flashing blue lights no longer penetrate the surrounding darkness. I never fall back to sleep until they come home.

And so they go navigating through night with Kyzer’s nose as their only guide, in search of someone who has brought trouble to town. They get scraped and bruised by bushes and bramble. Kyzer has even unexpectedly plummeted into an empty foundation while tracking around new construction sites. That track came to an abrupt end and transformed into a rescue-the-dog-from-the-deep-hole mission, but so many others have ended in victory.

In July of ’07 he found a man hiding in a patch of woods in Lawrence during a manhunt. The photo in the newspaper showed the man being taken away in handcuffs and Kyzer following not far behind. In Kyzer’s mouth was the ball cap the suspect was wearing. Now that was victory!

Press Paws on Patrol

Kyzer was diagnosed with bloat in 2009 and received two surgeries in as many weeks to correct the condition. During his second surgery, he had a portion of his intestines removed.

This is the heart-wrenching part. It was touch and go for over 6 months. At times, the prognosis was quite grim. People would ask about his recovery and our standard response became, “We’re cautiously optimistic.” His 95-pound frame withered to skin and bones. I’d sit on the floor with him, his head resting in my lap. In his eyes I could see his spirit, but he was lacking strength. I’d offer him bites of food from my hand and beg and plead with him to take it. Finally he would, but when the food wouldn’t stay down I would cry.

Every day Chuck would go to work without him and Kyzer would whine and pace in his kennel, so mad he was being left behind. Eventually he recovered enough to go back on patrol.

Still in recovery, Kyzer came home from work early one night. He was in his kennel next to my desk while I was trying to turn a job around. Suddenly he sat up straight, ears more astute than usual. And the whining began.

“Kyzer!” I scolded, and told him to lie back down. Instead he began banging his snout against the kennel door, desperately trying to get out. I looked behind me into the darkness and paused. The only thing I could hear was the distant roar of a pack of motorcycles speeding through the sleepy streets of town.

The police scanner chimed in, “310 is in pursuit of several motorcycles on Great Pond Road.” It was Chuck trailing those motorcycles I just heard. Kyzer, on the other hand, heard the roar of his police car going somewhere without him. He was all but shouting, “Wait up! Wait up!” Completely amazing.

All the other stuff

Of course, there are parts of living with a K9 that are not so glamorous. For example, one hot summer night they came home after a track in the deep woods covered head to foot and snout to tail in ticks. This is the squeamish part.

I can change dirty diapers or clean up after sick kids any day of the week. But a tick? Ick! That’s Chuck’s job. When I find one, I scream and throw it. Then I have to crawl around on my hands and knees until I find it again and get rid of it. Not this time, though, there were too many. We pulled long strands of Scotch tape out and wrapped them into double-sided tape circles. One side stuck to the table and we picked and stuck more than sixty ticks to the other side for about an hour. I had nightmares about that for days.

A fond farewell

Chuck and Kyzer have a symbiotic relationship built on friendship, loyalty and trust. Together they have accomplished great things. They found a missing woman in the woods along Route 114 in 2010, located a suicidal man who had already attempted to harm himself, then wandered into the woods at Royal Crest in 2011, and even received the Pet Sitter’s International Working Class K9 Hero Award, also in 2011, just to name a few. The most notable moment of their career was apprehending an active shooter at Independent Tire in North Andover back in 2007.

Kyzer has retired to the home he’s lived in since he and Chuck became a team. He sits by the front door and watches Chuck drive away to work without him. He’s not that happy about it. Sometimes he sits there for hours, hoping Chuck will return with the cruiser to get him.

I give Kyzer extra Milk-Bones and lots of scratches on his head. There is no doubt in my mind that the two of them would take their tour all over again. All the ticks, all the scratches, all the late night calls and even the surgeries. They’d do it together just for the thrill of a pursuit, the pleasure of a find, and a game of ball.

TRACEY August 03, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Cindy Ward August 04, 2012 at 04:12 AM
Congrats Chuck, you deserve it.
nancydoyleryan August 06, 2012 at 10:53 PM
What a great story thanks for sharing!
sandra diaferia August 09, 2012 at 12:42 PM
God bless you and your family !! Enjoy your retirement rolling in the grass and playing ball !
Mel August 09, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Beautiful story and well written.....I did get a little choked up. I do wonder, though, since you can't really explain to Kyzer why he doesn't get to go to work anymore, if he couldn't hang out at the station sometimes....or maybe go to schools to help educate children about canines in police work.


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