Lylou the 75-pound German shepherd flew through the rain, teeth bared, jaws stretched wide, the moment Tallmadge police officer Nate Ickes shoved Cuyahoga Falls Police Capt. Perry Tabak during the Akron K-9 Challenge on Saturday.
Tabak was still stumbling backward from the shove when Lylou, his partner, jumped from below and chomped onto Ickes’ arm pad like a shark attacking a seal.
Ickes tried to push Lylou away, but it didn’t work.
Then Tabak tried to pry off Lylou by tugging at her leash, but the 4-year-old K-9 wouldn’t yield.
Finally, Lylou pulled hard enough for the navy blue padding protecting Ickes’ arm to slide off and Lylou trotted away, tail wagging, with the arm pad in her mouth like she won the biggest prize of the day.
Tabak, who trains police K-9s, said afterward that the only time a police dog is allowed to attack without a command from a human partner is when that partner is being attacked.
“So Lylou did exactly what she was supposed to do,” he said.
Lylou was among 18 police dogs — from as far away as Steubenville and Cadiz — competing during the fifth annual event at Lock 3 Park in Akron.
“I’m always surprised how many people show up on days like this, but it’s great,” said Akron Police Detective Patrick Armstead, ducking out of a steady rain and under an awning with a few of the more than 100 people gathered to watch the competition.
“One year, there was hail and tornado warnings, and people still wanted to see the dogs,” he said, as his K-9 partner Mylo nudged his side for a pet. Mylo, a 9-year-old Belgian Malinois, wasn’t competing Saturday, but placed first in the 2014 and 2015 contests.
Armstead said he wanted to be a police officer who flew in helicopters, rode on horses or worked with dogs.
“Akron doesn’t have a helicopter or horses, so I went with a dog. ... I love animals,” he said, as a stranger petted Mylo’s sopping wet fur.
The role of dogs in the military and police has evolved over the years said trainer Tabak. In Vietnam, K-9s were once only guard dogs, he said. Now they have all sorts of specialties from finding people with dementia who have wandered away to sniffing out explosives.
University of Akron student Spencer Forshey, hiding from the rain Saturday under a pavilion at Lock 3, just finished an internship with Cuyahoga Falls police but showed up to see the dogs because that was his favorite part of the job — even when it scared him.
One day, Forshey said, he helped with training, climbing a tree and acting as a decoy for dogs to find. When a dog spotted him, Forshey threw a dog a Kong toy as a reward.
Everything was going well until Forshey had only one Kong toy left. Tabak told him to climb down from the tree and hold the Kong over his head and behind him.
“On the ground?” Forshey said he asked, worried a police dog would attack him.
“Yes, on the ground,” Tabak told him.
Forshey was afraid, but did was he was told.
“I could feel a wet nose on my hands and then paws on my back and then this dog comes around and looks into my soul and started barking,” Forshey recalled. “I was petrified.”
The 105-pound, pure white German shepherd barking at him was Kilo, Tabak’s former K-9 partner, now retired and living with Tabak and Lylou. What Forshey didn’t know was that Kilo wasn’t trained to attack.
He was a “bark and hold” dog. Kilo’s job was to find a person, block the person’s path and bark until Tabak could find him.
“I thought I was going to die,” Forshey said Saturday, laughing. “But if I become an officer, I definitely want to work with dogs.”
Tallmadge officer Ickes, who volunteered to be attacked by Lylou, ended up taking top honors Saturday with his K-9, Axel.
Amanda Garrett can be reached at 330-996-3725 or firstname.lastname@example.org.