Every day, a police dog named Bear puts his own safety on the line to protect New Yorkers. Recently, in the line of duty, he got four broken teeth and a swollen snout for his trouble.
Bear and his partner and handler, Officer Vincent Tieniber, work for the Transit Bureau, charged with the thoroughly unenviable job of keeping New York City subways and other transportation safe. If it weren’t for them and their colleagues, I don’t know how I or anyone else would get around this crazy city. Five million of us use the subway every day.
When another transit officer called for back-up to help break up a fight among four women in the subway station at Lexington Avenue and E. 59th Street in Manhattan on June 18th, Tieniber and Bear, a six-year-old German shepherd, responded. Unlike most people, who back down when they see the dog (much like larcenous thugs who catch a glimpse of Batman on their tails), one of the women refused to cooperate. Ravenia Matos-Davis kicked Bear in the face twice. The second time, he managed to get a good grip on her foot, which he held in his mouth until the human cops got her into handcuffs.
Bear’s medical treatment included pain medication and antibiotics. He got two teeth capped and two filed down.
Two things in particular impress me about Bear’s performance. One, even with cracked teeth, a cut tongue, and a swelling nose — a sneaker print remained visible on it for the rest of the day — he stayed in the fight and did his job. Two, once he had his attacker’s foot in his teeth, he didn’t bite her. His teeth didn’t even puncture her shoe. If someone kicked me in the face twice and I had the chance, I would sink my teeth in and not let go. And Bear’s teeth are even more important to him than mine are to me — they are his weapon, the equivalent of a human cop’s gun.
The K-9 officer’s self-control was a testament not only to his own virtue, but also to his training. A police spokesman compared Bear’s tactic to pulling a gun but not firing it. “He did what he’s trained to do, to hold on but not to bite.” That kind of training takes six months.
Police dogs put their lives on the line to help people. Burkhard Bilger at The New Yorker notes that patrol dogs “have one of the most dangerous jobs in public life” and are more likely than others to encounter lethal encounters. They are called in to work crimes that are in progress, often when a suspect is armed and known to be violent.
Americans are lucky that officers like Tieniber, who suffered a largely ignored sprained wrist in the melee, and Bear are willing and able to take on the worst of the bad guys.
Video courtesy of New York Daily News
Photo credit: Bear courtesy of New York Daily News