Going to the Dogs: On being a Decoy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve done some crazy stuff before but volunteering as a decoy for police dogs ranks close to the top. At first, as with most new adventures the idea of being a decoy was thrilling. I was very aware of the nearing day, checking my calendar, reading the email over and over, making sure that I had the right time and the proper clothing. Long sleeve shirt, pants, boots.

My impetus for being a decoy was simply that I had never done it before and it sounded exciting. How often are you given the opportunity to be dog bait? Exactly. Within a minute of seeing the text asking for volunteers I responded with a firm, “Yes”. Apparently, no one else had this strong feeling because I was the only volunteer from our police reserve unit.

Sometimes when you really want something and you also don’t really want the same thing it doesn’t happen. I half expected this training event to be cancelled.

It wasn’t.

And sometimes you try to imagine what this new adventure will look like.

Visions of running across a field of flowers with a dog, maybe a Labrador, bounding after me and then taking a gentle leap pulling me to the ground was my image.

Ignorance is bliss fits right in here.

Reality was a vacant building, darkness, and me lying on a floor in the corner of an empty room with a sheet of black plastic covering me.

There would be numerous police dogs with a K-9 police officer attempting to locate me, one by one. When does numerous become many? Let’s say when the count is over five. There would be many police dogs, each with their own K-9 police officer taking turns locating me one by one.

Aloneness is being in a dark vacant building waiting for a dog to attack. You know it’s coming. You’re warned, “Come out or I’ll send my dog in after you. You WILL get bit.” In case you didn’t hear it the first time you’re warned again. “You WILL get bit. Come out NOW.”

But and this is a big BUT, the role of a decoy is not to come out. The role of a decoy is to be still in the dark, under the tarp, until the dog latches onto you.

This leaves you time to think. And, you think, I know I’m going to get bit. Some place on my body. Maybe it will be my arm or my leg, could be my back or my shoulder.

I wasn’t too worried. I was suited up in a bite suit with a helmet on.

The advertisement for the Ultra Kimono Training Bite Suit says that high back and chest bites can be taken with confidence.

I can’t say that I was confident but I wasn’t too scared. I was squished in the corner like the Michelen man facing the wall. I felt as protected as one can feel when a police dog is on the prowl and you are the target.

Lying under the tarp, breathing shallow, I didn’t stir.

I heard the dog entering the room. It wasn’t the tap, tap of his nails that I heard first but his heavy, rapid breathing. He came closer. The dog barked a “He’s here boss!” which sounds like 2 or 3 loud snaps. The animal began moving the plastic around with his paws trying to find me with the K-9 police officer urging him on. “Get him! Get a piece of him! Find him!”

I didn’t move.

The dog latched onto my helmet and started pulling me out of the plastic. I played the next part perfectly, “Get your dog off me! Get your dog off me!” I screamed. “Get em off!”

With every dog attack my fear increased exponentially. Each police dog didn’t just want a piece of me they wanted my head. “He’s got my helmet! He’s got my helmet! He’s pulling it off! Get your dog off me!”

After one attack I took my helmet off. “Is that blood?” I asked looking down at the droplets on the floor. I felt the top of my head which felt tender but didn’t come away bloody. “Oh, that’s from the dog,” I said. It was the dog’s saliva I was seeing on the floor.

By this time, I was scared like one should be when being attacked by a police dog. Almost all the dogs went for my head no matter how they tried to position me on the floor. The bite suit was so thick and big that I couldn’t get my sleeve up to hold my helmet on and I was sure that the dogs were going to pop me like a cork. A K-9 police officer even tried to expose my back side so the dogs would go for it. Nada. They wanted Beth’s head.

I acted as a decoy in two other scenarios with multiple police dogs – standing in a corner down a long, long corridor and standing in a corner with a tarp over me. This time the dogs went for my leg. I learned that you shake your leg rapidly after the dog latches on so it doesn’t re-bite you. This is important to know if you’re a bad guy.

Having become aware of my vulnerability as a human being I started to question my soundness of mind. In-between dogs I had plenty of time to think about that. I thought maybe I wouldn’t need to do this activity again. Perhaps being a decoy one time was enough.

And, when I had the opportunity to call it a night, I sat down as quick as I could to get that bite suit off and hustled out of the building.

But, a day has gone by. And I think I just might do it again. You don’t often get the opportunity to feel that afraid and test your mettle. I have learned from this experience. Don’t go prone. Volunteer for the standing position.

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