Jack, an 11-year-old police dog, “retired” from the Fukuoka Prefecture police force in June 2015.
At that time, 64-year-old Hidefumi Koga, a member of the police identification department, adopted the German shepherd.
“I wanted him to be more free, I told him that it’s okay to bark because there’s no more training,” Koga said.
Some Fukuoka prefectural police officers, like Koga, who have been saddened to see their partners retire due to age, have adopted police dogs into their homes.
Officers not only ensure that the dogs enjoy their golden years, but also treat them like members of the family.
However, end-of-life nursing care would not be easy without a deep bond between caregivers and animals.
REUNIONED AFTER MORE THAN A DECADE
Koga and Jack met around 2003, when the dog was about 3 months old.
While rooming with Koga, Jack trained in search operations to become a full-fledged member of the police force.
Koga was reunited with Jack, then 11, in the spring of 2015 when he was reassigned to the unit after the officer was transferred.
The dog would then be in his 80s in human years.
Due to age, the dog’s legs have weakened, making it difficult for the dog to join the search. Jack was seen spending more and more time in the kennel.
Koga, who worked with police dogs for nearly 30 years, cared for many of them until they died in police facilities.
He often tended to police dogs who failed their duties, massaged their bladders to stimulate urination and diapered them, and turned the dog from side to side once an hour to prevent bedsores.
Koga said it was especially painful for him when bedridden dogs also tried to stay out of habit as other police dogs in the kennel began barking at once when his unit received an emergency call.
When this happened, Koga told the dogs to be quiet as they were on house sitting duty.
He wanted to relieve them from the stress of work.
None of his colleagues objected when Koga told him why he wanted Jack to retire, how they had endured hardships together, and how much he wanted the aging dog to live out the rest of his life in peace.
His dog-loving wife also welcomed this idea.
The couple had already made their home more soundproof and upgraded the air conditioning system so Jack could roam freely.
After Koga adopted Jack, he let the dog play as much as he wanted, taking him to the beach and taking him for walks along the shore.
Jack died the following summer.
‘APPROVED’ BY POLICE OFFICERS
In late June, another police dog retired from the Fukuoka Prefectural Police.
Kotaro, a 10-year-old German shepherd, was adopted by 48-year-old Shinji Kurihara, a member of the police dog unit who spent 6 years with dogs.
For Kurihara, Kotaro was almost like a teacher to him as he was sent to many crime scenes with the dog as a newly minted member of the identification unit.
Kotaro eventually became his partner as the officer gained experience.
“He will be my child from now on,” Kurihara said with a smile.
There are two types of police dogs in Japan.
Those kept and controlled directly by the police are known as “chokkatsu-ken” or directly controlled dogs. Jack was one of them.
Others are held by civilians and sent to the police when they go through an annual screening procedure. They are called “shokutaku-ken” or custom dogs.
About half of the police forces nationwide maintain a total of about 160 chokkatsu-ken dogs under central government funding.
If they are unable to perform their duties due to old age or ill health, they will be allowed to be replaced on application to the central government.
Since there is no pension system, prefectural governments take care of chokkatsu-ken dogs after they leave the service.
However, not all police dogs can spend their retirement years in private homes.
According to 58-year-old Toshikazu Murakami, head of the identification department’s police dog unit, the Animal Protection Act requires efforts to keep animals throughout their lives.
For this reason, it is difficult to give ex-police dogs to people other than police officers even after they retire from the service.
Many police officers are also not allowed to keep pets because they live in apartment complexes.
“Still, I think it would be better (for police dogs) to be adopted by police officers they’ve been with for many years,” Murakami said. “We want to continue this pension trend in the future.”