Greensburg police dog gets bulletproof vest
Every time Chuck Irvin goes to work, his four-legged shadow follows.
Irvin, a Greensburg police sergeant, goes nowhere on the job without Dax, his 7-year-old German shepherd and the police department's K-9 officer.
“He's the best partner I've had,” said Irvin, a member of the city force since 2005 and a police officer for 16 years.
“He watches every move I make. He's just amazing. When I go to work, he goes to work,” he said.
This month, Dax received a bulletproof vest through a nonprofit organization, Vested Interest in K-9s, along with a $950 donation from Daniels and Miller of Greensburg.
“Any type of situation we're going into and I have the time to put it on ... I think it's very important, because it offers that extra level of protection he didn't have,” Irvin said.
Vested Interest officials order the U.S.-made vests from distributor Regency Police Supply in Hyannis, Mass.
Vested Interest expects to provide more than 350 law enforcement dogs nationwide with the protective body armor in memory of K-9 Rocco.
Rocco, an 8-year-old German shepherd, was not wearing a vest when he was stabbed while helping Pittsburgh police track a suspect in the basement of a Lawrenceville building on Jan. 28. He died two days later.
Each vest weighs 6 to 7 pounds and will be embroidered with “In Memory of K-9 Rocco, Pittsburgh Police Department.”
Irvin and Dax attended the memorial services for Rocco.
“It was a sad thing,” Irvin said. “But it was nice so many officers participated.”
Dax came to Greensburg in July 2007 as a 1-year-old from the Czech Republic.
Irvin commands Dax in the hard guttural tones of the Czech language. Irvin's other dog, a Norwegian elkhound, has learned the commands spoken in Czech by watching Dax, Irvin said.
A multi-purpose dog, Dax can sniff out drugs, be used to track humans, search buildings and protect his handler.
Irvin said he knows Dax's mere presence has helped to defuse some potentially dangerous situations.
Dax has played a key role in at least 75 police cases in his nearly seven years on the city force, Irvin estimated.
Twice, he yanked suspects out from hiding places.
One time, Dax found a suspect hiding under vegetation in the 5th Ward. “We couldn't see him. I got Dax out, and he went in and found him and pulled him out by the leg,” Irvin said.
Dax is more than a workmate who happens to live with Irvin, his wife and their two children.
“When he's at home, he's part of the family. When it's time to go to work, he gets excited,” Irving said.
Dax will prance around as Irvin dresses for the job, ready to head off to the specially equipped K-9 patrol car.
Dax has been a popular attraction at schools and senior citizen centers where Irvin takes him for community service programs.
Dax, who will turn 8 in July, has some service time left before he will have to retire, Irvin said.
“It depends on his health,” Irvin said. “I've seen some dogs work as old as 10, 11 years old. My guess is we'll have another year and half from him.”
Dax has nothing to worry about when he puts his vest aside.
“He will become a full-time member of my family,” Irvin said.
Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or firstname.lastname@example.org.