Long before she graced the cover of a dog behavior book, Ziva the Seattle Police K9 was a super dog.

By Tracy Campion

During her seven and a half years of active duty, Ziva responded to more than 5,000 police calls, led 115 searches, conducted 312 tracks for suspects, and participated in 23 misdemeanor arrests and 81 felony arrests. At ten and a half years of age, Ziva is now happily retired. She left some big paw prints to fill, but Katniss, or “Ziva 2.0,” as she’s affectionately referred to by her partner, Mark Wong, is up to the task.

I first met Ziva in 2015 and had the opportunity to do a ride-along with Ziva and Officer Wong shortly afterward. It was almost midnight when Ziva led us along the pavement, her nose to the ground, her tail angled closely to her hind legs. She paused, her head went up, and then she turned her head over her shoulder to face her partner.

“She’s found her mark,” he said. “When she looks back at me like that, that’s how I know she’s found the scent trail.”

That night, I watched how Ziva and Officer Wong worked together. My pulse was pounding in my ears as I followed behind Ziva, Officer Wong, and Officer TJ San Miguel. A police car slowly drove into view. Ziva circled around the dumpster – I was sure that’s where the person must be hiding – but I was wrong. She circled away from it, toward a cement stairway, and then she found what she was looking for. It had only been a matter of minutes, but with her keen sense of smell, Ziva found her mark.

That night’s triumph was just a training drill, but if it had been a real bad guy, Ziva wouldn’t have been any happier. When Ziva discovered the hidden pseudo-bad-guy, she grabbed the training sleeve on the officer, let go, and dropped onto her stomach as Officer Wong gave her the signal to do so. Afterward, she had a noticeable spring to her step as she dragged the sleeve away like a Serengeti lioness with an antelope.

“Look at that smile,” Officer Wong pointed out as Ziva happily reclined in a patch of ivy, intermittently chewing on the training sleeve and glancing around at her fellow officers.

Ziva. Photo: Sarah Bous-Leslie.

Ziva and her partnership with Officer Wong were the inspiration behind the main character in my dog behavior book, Dog Behavior: Modern Science and Our Canine Companions.

The current Seattle Police K9 team features patrol and generalist dogs who find criminal suspects and locate evidence, narcotics dogs who are trained to detect cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin, bomb detection dogs who are trained to detect chemical compounds in gunpowder and military explosives, and electronic storage detection dogs, who are trained to detect chemical compounds in electronic devices. Dogs like Ziva and Katniss are partnered with a K9 officer and live and work with their partners to ensure continuous training. Like Ziva, they will continue to live with their assigned officer after retirement.

Katniss at Work. Photo Courtesy of Seattle PD.

The current teams:

Generalist Patrol K9s

K9-3       Mark Wong and Police Dog Katniss

K9-5       Corey Fleming and Police Dog “Stretch” Buddy

K9-6       Chris Gregorio and Police Dog Cerberus

K9-7       Chris Hairston and Police Dog Zeff

K9-8       Will Shaub and Police Dog Boggs

K9-9       Jake Briskey and Police Dog Blitz

K9-10    T.J. San Miguel and Police Dog Pele

K9-12    Ryan Huteson and Police Dog Delta

K9-13    Anthony Ducre and Police Dog Jedi

K9-17    Colleen Raftis and Police Dog Coco

Explosive Detection K9s

K9-4       Eric Dupleich and Police Dog Jazzy

K9-11    Kevin Heffernan and Police Dog Storm

K9-16    Jake Nelson and Police Dog Celeste

K9-xx     John Lewitt and Police Dog Boomer

Electronics Detection K9

K9-xx     Ian Polhemus and Police Dog Bear

When I first met Ziva, I was surprised by how soft her eyes were. She was a shiny-coated German shepherd with feminine features and I instantly wanted to pet her and get to know her. Apparently, the feeling was mutual: Ziva greeted me with a kiss on the cheek and then looked silently into my eyes. It’s easy to see why Ziva is well-known (and well-loved, too.)

Ziva isn’t a big dog – she’s probably about the size of my own dog, at about 55 pounds, but she’s agile, quick, and very good at her job – and boy, did she love her job. When my co-publisher, Sarah Bous-Leslie, met Ziva and Katniss for a photo shoot last spring, Ziva was ready for her close-up.

“I’m always a little intimidated meeting a working dog; I have a deep respect for their training and service!” Sarah said.

“It was no different meeting Ziva.  She had a very watchful eye…The kind of countenance that carries so much wisdom you almost expect her to speak.  I sensed a deep honesty in those eyes; she wasn’t one where you had to wonder where you stood. It was so thrilling to see her eyes light up when she looked at her partner, Officer Mark Wong, and her tail wagged happily.  I clicked away, hoping she could tell how honored I was to take her picture!”

Officer Mark Wong & Katniss. Photo Courtesy of Seattle PD.

Katniss, by contrast, is all exuberance – during the photo shoot, she was bounding up each hillside, her legs like springs, her eyes and ears searching the underbrush eagerly. It takes police K9s more than 400 hours of training to become a part of the force. Katniss is now two and a half years old – the prime age to begin her career as a police K9.

The Seattle police K9 teams are heroes who serve the community every day – and they wouldn’t have it any other way. To learn more about the Seattle K9s, visit their website at www.seattle.gov/police/units/k9.htm.

Once a dog retires, the cost of their care becomes the responsibility of their handler. You can help support these retired heroes at www.retiredpolicedogs.com and follow them on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/rspcf.