Officer Cory McEnroe’s partner made him laugh almost every time he went to work when he’d jump several feet in the air, land, and run in frantic, joyful circles.
K-9 Ty is a Belgian Malinois dog who served as McEnroe’s partner since 2009 and lived with McEnroe, his wife and two young children. His routine was always the same on workdays: McEnroe would put on his El Segundo Police Department uniform and Ty would go crazy.
“He’d be a completely relaxed sleeping-on-the-couch family dog, a total pet, and I’d walk out of the bedroom and he’d run around, jumping six feet in the air, spinning circles, turning into a complete nut,” McEnroe said. “He was so excited to go to work.”
Ty’s last day of work, unfortunately, was on June 23. He has been diagnosed with laryngeal paralysis, a degenerative disease affecting his ability to breathe. Twice, he suffered episodes in which he nearly died, and was saved as McEnroe rushed him to the 24-hour animal hospital in Torrance.
Thus ended a short but eventful career. According to a commendation presented to McEnroe at the Aug. 6 City Council meeting, Ty conducted 160 narcotics searches, 58 searches for violent felons, found more than 100 pounds of illegal drugs, and led officers to an estimated $800,000 in funds used in the drug trade. Perhaps most significantly, he apprehended five violent felon suspects, thereby helping to keep both the public and police officers out of harm’s way.
“Although Ty’s career was much shorter than I had hoped, I am just glad he pulled through and he’s going to have hopefully a long retirement at home, as well,” McEnroe told the council. “Because he really worked hard for the citizens of El Segundo, and for all of LA County, for that matter.”
Ty and McEnroe were utilized by various agencies, regularly answering calls for mutual assistance with neighboring police departments and variously working for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and on federal drug enforcement operations.
“There are just not enough dogs to go around,” said Chief Mitch Tavera, who earlier in his career supervised the K-9 program. “They are absolutely invaluable.”
Tavera said that canines search more quickly than their human counterparts and can go places officers cannot, quite literally saving not only officers from harm but also suspects – many who could otherwise face potential lethal force in the process of apprehension. The chief also praised McEnroe and other dog handlers in the department, including Officer Chris Cameron, who stepped up to take McEnroe’s place after Ty’s retirement.
“It’s a lot of work,” Tavera said. “These officers, if their dog is any good – and I mean this from the heart – it’s because the handlers put their time into it. They are paid a stipend, but they put a lot of time in making sure the dogs are disciplined and well behaved on the missions they are required to do.”
McEnroe recalled that Ty made his first apprehension about six months after he began working in 2009. The incident occurred in Hawthorne, on a mutual assistance call, when a suspect had been detained after robbing three people. The victims were en route for a “field show up” to identify the suspect when the handcuffed man “pulled a fast one,” according to McEnroe, and managed to escape custody. As more information came in via the radio, police realized they were dealing with a very dangerous man
“He was a parolee at large, potentially armed and dangerous, in addition to the fact he’d just robbed three people,” McEnroe said.
The man had run down the street, and a resident of an apartment complex had heard a noise up above, in an attic. Police made several announcements, warning the suspect that a dog would be deployed if he didn’t surrender, but to no avail. They then lifted Ty 8 ft. up, and turned him loose in the attic.
“Ty bit him in the leg, and we were able to get up and get the guy taken into custody,” McEnroe said. “No officers were hurt. The guy had a minor puncture wound in his leg. That was a pretty amazing search – someone that dangerous who had that motive to get away, you have no idea what they are capable of. There is no safe way to take someone like that into custody when they are in that position of advantage – up there in the dark, he knows exactly where officers are, but Ty didn’t have to use his eyes. He used his nose, and the guy couldn’t see where he was coming from.”
Another apprehension occurred on a city block-sized construction site in El Segundo, where officers had learned a systematic theft of expensive equipment and metals had been occurring. Alerted by a patrol officer and then the heat-sensing equipment from a police helicopter that two suspects were on site, McEnroe and Ty went to work. Mere seconds after turning Ty loose, the dog stopped in his tracks, barking – 20 feet away, the suspect stood up from where he was hiding and surrendered without incident.
McEnroe said without a police dog a situation such as that likely ends either in harm to the suspect or the officer, or both.
“That is not going to end good for you,” he said. “You are not going home to your family, and if you are, it’s not going to be all of you. That was a pretty amazing apprehension.”
“The officer safety aspect of it is the dog will definitely put their life before an officer’s,” Chief Tavera said. “And all in all, that’s a fair trade, in safety – if they save an officer’s life, that’s worth all the tea in China.”
Ty is now a fulltime family dog. He may yet require major surgery, but in an unusual Catch-22, retired police canines are not covered by department medical insurance. McEnroe said he will do whatever he has to do to keep his former partner alive and healthy. “If there’s anything I need to do to keep him healthy to live a long life, I am going to bend over to help him,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ty is settling into civilian life quite nicely. The first day that McEnroe went to work, the former police dog realized something was amiss – even though McEnroe wasn’t in uniform and didn’t have a police cruiser at home, Ty saw him packing up his Jeep and went and sat in the back seat, doing something he’d rarely done before – he refused commands, and had to be physically removed from the vehicle.
“He hunkered down back there,” McEnroe said. “It’s the only time he did that. He knew. ‘Hey, I know where you are going. I’m supposed to be going with you.’ There’s a lot more going on in a dog’s brain than a human can even imagine.”
The El Segundo Police Officer’s Association is attempting to find a way to help fund any medical costs. For now, contributions can be made through the ESPD K-9 program. For information on the K-9 program or to donate, call ESPD at 310-524-2200 and ask for McEnroe or officers Chris Cameron or Steve Trujillo. Direct donations can be made out to the City of El Segundo, earmarked for the K-9 Foundation, 348 Main St., El Segundo, 90245.