The Operational K9 (OpK9)
The wide spread use of dogs to assist society today has resulted in the term “working dog” becoming a catchall phrase for any K9 that is trained to assist society in one form or another. But each group of working dog differs uniquely from one another in the tasks they are trained to perform and the level of occupational hazard they may be subjected too; therefore, it is inappropriate to group all working dogs under one broad title. Within the global community of civilian working dogs exists a distinct sub-population of K9s that are asked to perform in high threat or tactical environments; these K9s continuously place themselves in the way of life-threatening harm. For these dogs, Operational K9 (OpK9) is a more befitting term to distinguish this special group of civilian working canines from the rest of the pack. Civiian OpK9s include those K9s that serve federal, local law enforcement (LE) and other force protection agencies (e.g., Police K9s, TSA, US Border Patrol, etc) and Search and Rescue (SAR) K9s. For the military, the terms military working dogs (MWDs) or multi-purpose canines (MPC) remain more applicable and well-known terms to identify that population of elite K9 operators.
Operational K9s do not volunteer to serve like the rest of us, yet they are some of the most faithful and dependable operators in the field. They undoubtedly perform an invaluable service in today’s society and are owed a tremendous debt of gratitude for their selfless service, loyalty and sacrifices. Through their service on the battlefield and on the home front, OpK9s provide an immeasurable service and serve as a force multiplier throughout world in the success of various law enforcement, military, humanitarian, and SAR operations. True to the words inscribed on the US Military Working Dog Team Monument, these “Guardians of America’s Freedom” selflessly dedicate their lives to protect us from danger and defend our way of life.
"The Operational K9 … our Companion, our Teammate, our Defender … Let’s protect those who protect us …” - L. Palmer