Bellingham police are mourning the loss of Brick, a bomb-sniffing dog, who died from injuries he suffered on a work break earlier this month.
Brick, a German shepherd, sniffed out bombs, guns and ammunition at checkpoints for U.S. soldiers in Iraq for two years, before he returned from his tour of duty and, like many military veterans, found a career in local law enforcement.
Around the time he joined the Bellingham Police Department in late 2013, his handler, Officer Shan Hanon, changed the dog’s name from Brie to Brick. To Hanon, a name like Brie didn’t seem like a great fit for the dog, but he wanted to keep the sound about the same. This was a big, sturdy, male dog, built like a brick.
“He didn’t use his eyes as much as his nose, so he would run into walls,” Hanon said. “You’d think he’d learn, but it was a continual thing. And he’s about as dense as a brick, which is perfect, that’s what I want.”
Some police dogs are trained to sniff for drugs, while others, like Brick, are trained to find explosives and firearms. Here in Bellingham he swept cars for bombs at the Alaska Ferry Terminal; searched for shell casings at crime scenes; carried out search warrants with police in Whatcom and Skagit counties; and visited local schools to show students the kind of work police dogs do. He assisted U.S. border authorities and the FBI, when they needed a nose that could help solve a case.
Brick had such a strong work ethic, Hanon said, that when they got called out to a scene, Brick almost couldn’t contain himself. He would jump around. Often he’d pull on the harness – and a big German shepherd can pull really hard – for a good 30 seconds before he’d calm down enough to get to work.
“He wanted to work so bad, he didn’t want to be petted,” Hanon said. “He’d just put his nose on you, to see if you had any bombs on you.”
Once his work was done, and he had a toy in his mouth, he would finally let you pet him.
Earlier this month Brick’s handler drove him to a field to play. They were on duty, but on a break. The handler was throwing a toy for him when Brick twisted his body in a way that he hurt himself. He yelped in pain, went to the car and stood by the door. But Hanon didn’t realize how seriously Brick was hurt. Later, he would learn Brick suffered a rare internal injury to his blood vessels.
In the morning Hanon was about to leave for work with Brick and his other K-9, Jax, when he noticed Brick had been bleeding. He rushed him to a veterinarian, who told him to take the dog to a specialist in Langley, B.C. Brick died in surgery June 15, within hours of the injury. He was 6. His birthday was three days later.
“He never had an aggressive bone in his body,” said Hanon, who has worked with six dogs since he became a K-9 handler in the early 1990s. “He’s a special dog. For some reason he was just different.”