Bandit was seated next to a temporary handler who held the lead attached to his crisp police dog vest that covered his torso. It was bulletproofed and flame-resistant and made up of tiny and tightly crossed black cords. The insignia of the Police precinct was emblazoned on the shoulder, but it wouldn’t be for long. The Chief had whispered to a few colleagues when he sat in the folded chair, and thus the plans were put in motion to have Bandit transferred back to rehabilitation training once the ceremony was over, unbeknownst to the canine himself.
The conference room they were in looked completely transformed, and the stage ahead was decorated with the colors of the precinct, purple and gold, in streamers and banners, and an electronic screen was lowered in front of the curtains that hid the backstage. Folding chairs had been moved into to fill rows and rows of the attendees, and even the police dogs that were scattered around the room knew this was a special occasion. Excitement and cheerfulness permeated the air, and the first speaker took his turn at the podium and introduced himself.
“Hello, fair servants of Grism City!” the man bellowed, and the entire conference room cheered. When they had settled with a slight prompt from his hands, the man continued. “It has been an honor to be the mayor of this city, and see how beloved the Police Officers are to our citizens. While many other cities may complain of corruption and greed, we as a unit have eschewed those traits for much stronger values that pulls our city together. We are here to work as one, and everyone here knows that our success is largely contributed to in the strength and discipline of our K-9 unit, right here at Precinct 85,” he paused as the cheering roared.
“Precinct 85!” someone from the audience whooped, which caused a small trickle of laughter. Chief Bogart muttered under his breath about petulance. The mayor held his broad smile and then he continued when it had quieted down.
“I, Jedidiah McKee, am pleased to be here to help honor the canines that have dedicated their lives to this city. Long live Grism City!” the Mayor announced. More cheers flooded the room and Bandit looked around excitedly with his tongue lolling out, not knowing that he was mentally excluded from the best of the best. The Chief left his seat and energetically bounded up the stage and to the podium, and heartily shook the mayor’s hand before taking his place at the mic.
“Thank you to Mr. McKee, our city’s mayor,” the Chief waved genially as he continued the accolades. “It really is our honor to have you here to help present these awards to the K-9 Unit, and also to bid farewell to a cherished officer, who will be leaving for retirement. I’m talking about the K-9 Officer that has solved one hundred and twelve cases since he came here from the Academy, has seen more than his share of gunfire and been at gun and knife-point plenty throughout his career, and he has saved no less than three hundred lives. Three hundred of our citizens are with their loved ones today because of this dog and his actions in the face of inherent danger. I present to you, Sarge!”
The Chief swept his hand off-stage to a handler and a heroic-looking German shepherd that were making their way on-stage while the whole room cheered and clapped more than they had yet so far. It was deafening, especially to Bandit’s ears, but his attention was still held as Sarge made his way up the platform. A tribute video started playing on the electronic screen behind them that highlighted Sarge’s best cases.
This was the same German shepherd that many people passing in the street had seen when they looked up at the electronic banners at the entrance to the precinct’s station. His distinct silver points around his muzzle, chest and shoulders, and paws shone through his black coat brilliantly in the lighting of the stage. His poise was confident and his inner strength showed through in his regal stance. Despite the noise and the distractions, he held steady and looked calmly around everyone seated in the audience, as if he knew they were all gathered there for him.
Sarge’s long-time handler took the mic and began to speak about how he had come to be paired with the charismatic canine, and how those years had been his best in the Police Force. He talked about how he couldn’t wait to get his next polished partner from their very many qualified canines, but no dog could ever truly replace Sarge. A murmuring of agreement spread throughout the crowd, and a few glanced at Bandit and snickered, to which Bandit only flashed a canine smile and impatiently danced on his two front toes until his handler made him sit again with another command. Before Sarge was presented with a glinting medal and a mahogany and gold plaque with his embossed name and accomplishments, his picture was taken in his calm and dignified sitting position to be added to the Police Precinct 85 Hall of Fame for the K-9 Officers, the highest honor given. News reporters flashed their cameras as well to capture the historic moment.
After Sarge was presented with his medal and plaque, it was time to recognize the other dogs for their various contributions, and one by one they went up to receive their medal and a biscuit and certificate from the mayor. Bandit watched as every dog seated in the audience next to their handlers went up to receive one, and he wiggled with anticipation for his turn. It never came.
The ceremony concluded with another German shepherd by the name of Blue Steele being introduced, and his name was emblazoned on a video that started playing on the electronic screen that showed his first case and his highlights from the Academy. He had a few cases under his collar already and had shown great promise. His coat was the most distinctive and non-traditional, being a very diluted black that looked like a warm grey; a genetic recessive known as “blue” in the genetically-inclined world. He also had silver points that looked much like Sarge’s own.
“We hope that Blue Steele will live up to our expectations, especially as Sarge’s grandpup,” the Chief announced. When the Chief revealed the family connection, everyone cheered again and welcomed him with open arms even more than they had before. As the ceremony concluded and everyone started to disperse, Bandit looked around quizzically, as if expecting a medal and a treat, but none came.
Instead, his handler led him to the Chief, who was busy with one of the assistants. Their tones were hushed and the assistant had a frantic look on her face as she talked.
“I’m sorry that plans have changed,” the Chief said with a somber and serious note, nodding to his assistant. “An emergency has just been called in, and we need all the canine units there. Bandit’s going to have to meet his new partner early.”