Edmonton Sun Chief photographer Tom Braid has worked very closely with the Edmonton Police Service Dog unit. He produced the previous Police Dog trading cards, for which he won a company TAB award. Some of the advertising profits from that project were used to help pay for a giant jungle mural on the wall of the Rosecrest Home, a special place that takes care of severely disabled, medically fragile children of which his son is an occupant. He is also a volunteer for the Canadian Police Dog Championships.
I was on my way to the Edmonton Police Dog Unit at 124 Street and Yellowhead Trail for a meeting to finalize some of the plans for the Edmonton Sun sponsored Canadian Police Championship Dog games to be held in Edmonton during the Labour Day long weekend when my phone rang and the call that I have dreaded came in. "Tom, there has been a shooting and a police dog is down!" I had a sick feeling in my gut. "What about the member?" is all I could ask. "Don't know" the caller said.
Dialing the unit directly, I could feel the stress and tension over the phone. "The member is okay," I was told, "The dog isn't". They could not tell me who. This made things even worse for me. Who was it? I knew, after all, we may be friends! I have made some good friends over the years while doing numerous charity events with the EPS Canine Unit. You can always count on Police Dog Unit members to be there if you need them. They regularly volunteer to do demonstrations at countless schools and community events, teaching kids just how special these dogs are. But the bottom line was: I work for the media.
Shortly after another call came in. This time it was someone who is outside the unit, but close enough to know. It was Randy Goss and Caesar was dead. Randy is a friend; my daughter has rode on this beautiful black and mahogany 85 pound Rottweiler's back.
People don't quite get it. This was not a dog, this was an actual Police member, his title was "Police Service Dog (PSD) Caesar." He was a cop.
Other cops on the street trust these dogs with their very own lives without ever giving it a second thought. You ask any cop what they think of having a PSD member backing them up on a call. There are many calls that police members will not proceed on without a dogman backing them up. At work, Caesar was all business. He and his partner lived the Unit's Motto "Life's Short - Bite Hard". Off duty, he was a docile friendly family pet that would lick you silly if you let him.
During training, one of the exercises they practice is releasing the dog after a gun-touting bandit. The fake bad guy shoots blanks at the dog to see if it will run away - these dogs fear nothing. But Caesar was afraid of heights. Actually, he was terrified of heights. When I was shooting pictures for the police dog trading card project, he shook like a leaf when we tried to take pictures on the overpass. We had to shoot the picture in the river valley instead.
There were a couple of lucky kids that day, lucky that Caesar was not afraid of guns. They are the ones that were standing near the school, the same ones that the gunman had turned to and was walking right toward when Randy knew he had to do something before some innocent child was shot. Caesar had a lock on the gunman, he ran full boar while the gunman had his back turned. A split second before the dog was going to jump on his back, the gunman turned and shot Caesar point blank in the face. The damage was severe and fatal. Other police members shot the gunman before Randy was next.
Constable Tom Stevens now on scene, picked up Caesar's lifeless body into his arms and got him to a vet. It was too late. There was nothing the surgeon could do. He was already gone. Caesar paid the ultimate price for being a cop. He gave his life so no one else had to die. He died a hero.
Some people will say that it was only a dog. I challenge them to ask the parents of the kids that were saved if they think that this was just a dog. Edmonton is not a safer place now that Caesar is dead. Eight year Dog Unit police constable Doug Green put it best, "He was a friend, he was a colleague, he was a police officer and ultimately he died a hero."
It is true, life is short, Caesar - you did bite hard. You will be sorely missed by many, but never forgotten.