A brief history and background on my working career with dogs
It all started back in 1980 when I enlisted into the RAAF as a Police Dog Handler (although back then, we were simply known as Security Guards, and yet our dogs were officially Police Dogs). The mustering has gone through a few name changes over the past 30 years. They are now rightfully known as Military Working Dog Handlers.
I have a had a love of dogs my entire life. My earliest childhood memories are of a German Shepherd my family had back in the late 60's when we were living in South Africa for just under 2 years. When we returned to Australia Pretty (our GSD) was given back to the breeder, which broke my heart. We never had the chance of having another dog, due to my father continually moving around for work. I left school when I was 16, to the total disagreement of my father. He would only allow me to leave school if I was offered an apprenticeship. I let my father down greatly when I did find a job as an apprentice 1st Class Sheetmetal Worker. My fathers deep desire for me was to go to university and follow in his footsteps in computers. But as a young kid of 16, I of course knew better. But I would have never dreamed that that decision would eventually lead me to the career choice I have now..My true passion, working with dogs.
My current career with dogs commenced when in 1980 I had not long completed my 4 year apprenticeship. One evening in early 1980, after I arrived home from work, I switched on the TV and cracked open a beer. A children's show was on called 'Simon Townsends Wonder World'. As the show started, they showed a brief summary on what was coming up on the show. They showed a snippet of the RAAF Police Dogs doing a public demonstration. I decided to sit through the show to watch the segment. Well when it came on, I sat glued to the TV, I knew there and then I had found my dream job. I contacted RAAF recruiting the very next day to see if it was possible to join as a Police Dog Handler, and to my surprise was informed yes, if I passed all the requirements. Well 6 months later I was on a flight from Brisbane to Adelaide to commence my Rookies training at RAAF Base Edinburgh. January 1981, I was then attached to No7 Stores Depot in Toowoomba where the Police Dog Training Centre was situated. The course was 3 months long, and I was teamed up with a GSD that I had chosen, his name was Kunter, and he become PD 826, after we completed our training.
Whilst at RAAF Fairbairn, I was in my element, working with a partner I loved. I would go to the section on my days off, just to train him. During my 5 years at Fairbairn, PD Kunter and I won top dog team of the year from memory 4 years running. We always scored extremely high in our monthly assessments. I loved my career as a RAAF Police Dog Handler. I trained Kunter to do all types of tricks on top of his training requirements. He and I were involved in more public demonstrations than I can remember. Whilst at Fairbairn, I became involved in running Sunday group classes for civilians just outside the base, with one of my NCO's. This too I enjoyed, and gave me a good grounding in helping companion dog owners with their dogs.
PD Kunter and I worked together for 6 years, before he eventually succumbed to severe hip dysplaysia, and sadly I eventually had to say goodbye to my best mate. That day was one of the darkest days of my service career. Unless one has dedicated so much time and effort to a dog as we did in the military, one cannot understand the immense bond dog handlers have for their canine partner. We spent more time with our dogs in the military than we did with our own families. Anyhow, after the passing of my best mate, I was then selected to go back to Police Dog Training Centre to commence my course as a Drug Detection Dog Handler. It was there I was teamed up with my next partner, and his name was PD Mate. We bonded very quickly, but still, Kunter would always remain in my heart, and the best dog I had ever had the privilege to work with. To this very day, I still miss him.
After completing my Drug Detection Dog Handlers course, I was posted to RAAF Base Darwin, where I work with the RAAF Special Investigations Branch. As I was the only drug detection dog handler in the Northern Territory at the time, I also had a close working relationship with ASIO, Australian Federal Police, Australian Customs, and the Northern Territory Police. I spent 2 years in Darwin carrying out drug detection duties, before the position was disbanded. I then finished my last years back as a Police Dog Handler, with my last dog PD Ben, before discharging after 12 years of service.
I had a number of postings whilst serving in the RAAF
- RAAF Base Fairbairn - Canberra
- No2 Stores Depot - Sydney
- RAAF Base Darwin - Darwin
- No1 Ammunitions Depot - Sydney
- RAAF Base Garbett - Townsville
- An attachment to Malaysia
- Numerous military exercises
- Numerous courses
- And even applied for and was accepted on the Special Air Service (SAS) Cadre Course. I pulled the pin after just over 10 days of the 4 week course. Not because I didn't think I would make it all the way through, but because it wasn't until I was on the course that I found out that you couldn't apply for 1 SAS, the counter terrorist squadron straight off course. You had to do a minimum of 2 years in at least one of the other units, airborne or waterborne. I simply lost the motivation to continue. My only reason for applying in the first place was to be in the counter terrorist unit.. But who knows, even if I stayed, I may not have made it all the way through the course. Its the toughest course in the military, with a very high failure rate.
After discharging from the RAAF, I decided it was time to move on from working with dogs, so I enrolled into a business computing course to learn programming. I completed my course, but then where did I end up back again..working with dogs. I just couldn't walk away from a profession I loved so much, and that had offered me so much. So I started my own little dog training business in Townsville, before applying for a position with Australian Quarantine as a detector dog handler. I completed the 3 months training in sydney, before being sent to Brisbane Airport, to commence my duties checking the baggage on incoming international flights. I became very bored of this work, and couldn't see myself walking around an airport baggage hall for the rest of my working life. I was feeling unfulfilled. So after just over 8 months with AQIS I resigned, and totally focused on my own business....
To be continued
This brief biography is work in progress, so please return as I update this page over the coming weeks. Could get interesting, with stories of my time in the RAAF, and thereafter...