Crime-fighting puppies to save the TT
WITH CRIME spiraling out of control, you could say this country has gone by the wayside. It’s a hopeless situation for everyone except a small portion of police officers who believe our best hope for fighting crime is in dogs. The Canine Section celebrates its 70th anniversary on September 25, and this milestone brings unusual demand and rare opportunity.
The Mounted and Canine Branch hopes some citizens are concerned enough about crime to donate six- to eight-week-old German Shepherd or Belgian Malinois puppies to its new puppy program.
For 12 years, I have been working on the history of the canine section where donated dogs have a special place among police dogs. Sad, joyful and shocking stories emerged from the officers’ interviews and the dogs’ secret files.
Many purebred dogs from Europe and the United States arrived in Trinidad to serve as police dogs, but the donated dogs provided some of the most heartfelt stories in canine history. Three dogs in particular stand out for me: Panther, Trigger, and Daemon.
On July 9, 1962, Sgt Hamilton Bridgeman and PC Hector “Pee Wee” Lewis took possession of a black Labrador named Punch from an Australian couple who were due to return home. When they returned to the police station and Punch attempted to attack officers mocking him, Lewis renamed him Panther.
Panther, Dog #24, fugitive suspects. He captured wanted men in a hut in the Beetham, then a voyeur, a cocoa thief and a gunman escaping the police.
Next is Trigger, a lively and handsome German Shepherd with a black and tan coat born on March 26, 1964. His owner, Lystra D Lewis, wrote to the police commissioner on September 29, 1965, offering Trigger, the little brother of police dog Butch. The brothers came to an agreement with the police to breed one of their dogs with Lewis’s dog. The police chose Butch over Trigger for the choice of litter.
Lewis wrote: “Trigger has grown into a good dog, but he is very determined and somewhat aggressive…he is too strong and sometimes difficult for me to handle, nevertheless, I love him.”
The police signed up Trigger. He thrived with his second handler, Constable James. Trigger chased and caught a thief who snatched a watch from someone’s hand. On March 14, 1972, Trigger pursued a man who had stolen a gun from Sangre Grande and fled about a mile into the Manzanilla Forest. The following month, on April 15, 1972, Trigger came to the rescue of a drunken man who stole $35. He ran towards the thief and caught him. He solved the case of a cow killed when it was sliced on its stomach with a cutlass. Trigger led the police to the suspect’s house where the bloodied cutlass was recovered. His most prominent case came when he caught a man raping a woman in Queen’s Park Savannah.
The given dog Daemon is a legend in canine history. On December 13, 1967, Richard Wallace donated the Sable German Shepherd when he had to return to England. Daemon’s file stated that Wallace requested “…that if for any reason the dog cannot be used for police work, he would rather have the dog gently put to sleep than sent to a home where it might not be properly cared for because of the dog’s aggressive tendencies towards strangers.
Intelligent and confident, bold and obedient, Daemon never backed down from a confrontation – even when the suspects he was pursuing hit him with a pipe or a plank. In the aftermath of the Black Power Revolution, he tracked members of the National Union of Freedom Fighters (NUFF) hiding in the forests, and he was chosen for a special mission when the government sent the canine police to St Vincent to assist in the arrest of three men who murdered Cecil Eric Rawle, the acting Attorney General, on May 11, 1973.
It turned out to be the saddest and most disconcerting case in canine police history. The Mighty Travailr won Road March and Calypso Monarch of St Vincent in 1974 with a calypso on Daemon called The Puppy.
The covid19 pandemic has created a shortage of police dogs to buy all over the world. The canine police therefore seek to borrow a page from its history and enroll given dogs, in this case puppies. Someone has a Panther, Trigger or Daemon that can help this country fight crime. Anyone can make history.