Don’t tell his fiancee, but Santa Clara Police Department officer Jerry Ogg has a new BFF –Brek, a two-year-old, 75-pound German Shepherd born in the Czech Republic. Ogg and Brek are the newest dog team (of four) on the police force and are committed to a lifetime friendship that includes five to ten working years for Brek.
Ogg, full time with the police department since 2011, is also a U.S. Naval reservist. He and Brek teamed up last November, after Ogg returned from a year-long Military Police assignment to Djibouti, a small country in the Horn of Africa.
They spent six weeks training in Reno, where the two were together 24/7, even sharing a hotel room. Brek became certified to perform building and area searches, track crime suspects, and detect explosives, enhancing officer safety.
“A lot goes into training,” says Ogg. “And when you see growth, you’re so happy and proud, kind of like being a proud papa.” Also like a papa, Ogg takes care of Brek’s every need.
“I have to take care of him all day, every day; brush him–even his teeth–feed him, walk him, play with him.” Ogg has two smaller dogs that Brek also plays with, but Ogg is the top dog, the Alpha that all three look up to.
Ogg and Brek are back in Santa Clara now, working the midnight shift.
“I do everything a regular officer would do–take reports, write tickets, patrol–but I have a dog with me,” says Ogg, whose large patrol car is specially fitted with a caged area roomy enough for Brek to move around.
“We’re both very approachable and social,” continues Ogg. “Brek is happy and friendly, but when I give him a proper work command, he’s ready to work. With a K9, everything is reward- driven. Everything is a big game. He’s in it to get rewarded with his toys–a ball or a tug toy. Not food.”
Brek responds to about a dozen work commands in German; commands such as “search,” “beware,” “apprehend,” and “release.” He also responds to hand signals and is, of course, learning English. Ogg, who grew up in Santa Clara, studied conversational German at Santa Clara High School, so it was easy for him to learn the German commands.
After high school, Ogg, now 27, joined the U.S. Naval Reserves and earned a B.A. Degree in Criminal Justice through the American Military University. He was deployed to Iraq for one year and entered the Police Academy at Evergreen College when he returned, earning POST (Police Officer Standards and Training) certification for California.
During Naval Reserve training, Ogg saw a presentation by Navy dog handlers and “fell in love with it.” Reservists were not able to be dog handlers, but the desire was planted in Ogg’s mind, leading him to apply for the SCPD position as a dog handler when it opened up. Once he was chosen for the competitive position, it was held open for him until he returned from Djibouti.
Brek was purchased for the SCPD by the Sean M. Walsh K-9 Memorial Foundation, funded by a $10,000 donation from the Rotary Club of Santa Clara. The foundation was founded in memory of Army National Guard Specialist Sean M. Walsh, who was killed while serving in Afghanistan in 2011. Walsh was a Police Explorer with the SCPD.
The Police & Working K9 Foundation helps in other ways, including providing ballistic vests for the K9s and patrol car heat alarms to alert an officer if the car gets too hot for the safety of the dog.
“Brek and I are still getting to know each other and bond, but this is more than I ever could have hoped for,” says Ogg.
“When Brek’s out, he gets excited because he thinks we’re going to train or do some kind of work, such as burglary searches at a business or a bomb sweep at the stadium,” says Ogg as Brek dances around him, wagging his tongue and his tail, eager to start the midnight shift on a wet Friday night.
“Guter Hund!” says Ogg, petting Brek, who will not, by the way, be in Ogg’s June wedding.