Would you ever volunteer to put on a 35-pound bite suit and essentially become a human chew toy as part of a training session for a law enforcement K9? TMC Security Officer Cisco Montoya did more than a decade ago, and the experience changed his life. “I was hooked,” he said. “I saw how fun it was to work with the dogs, and the bond that K9’s and their handlers have. I was determined to become a handler.” Montoya has been with TMC since 1997. He started in housekeeping, and worked his way up the ranks while doing security part-time at another hospital. The entire time, he continued to volunteer as a decoy – a move that eventually helped him secure his position as one of two K9 officers for TMC Security. In 2003, he received his first partner, Gage. The two were a team until Gage was retired at the end of last year. Shortly after, he got Orbe (pronounced Or-bay), a five-year-old, 90-pound Czechoslovakian Shepherd.
Jim Myers has worked for TMC Security for 24 years. When he was promoted to supervisor in 1995, he helped launch the TMC Crime Prevention and K9 program. “The TMC Crime Prevention Program was intended to focus on effective prevention rather than just waiting for crimes to happen, and then responding to them,” he said. That program also included the use of K9’s. “At the time, no other hospital in the state had a crime prevention program tied in with their K9 program.” Myers’ first dog was Zeus. He had him for four years, until the dog had to be retired. Myers spent the next eight years with Norbo until the dog was injured while conducting a search during a call. In 2009, Myers received Ax, a six-year-old, 100-pound Czech Shepherd who is by his side daily.
The TMC K9’s are all Czech Shepherds. Their true bloodlines make them extremely healthy, and typically free of health problems that plague other breeds, like hip dysplasia. The TMC Security team gets their dogs from a Czechoslovakian man named Hans Blabla who has a kennel in Surprise, Arizona. Blabla breeds, imports, and police trains Czech Shepherds. The dogs then receive additional training for a hospital setting. “The most impressive thing about these dogs is their ability to transition from working to being social. It’s just like flipping a switch with a simple command. I could go on patrol with Ax, and then take him to TMC for Children, and he could serve the same purpose as a therapy dog,” Myers said.
“Those traits are exactly what we look for in our dogs,” said Montoya. “Since we deal with children at TMC, these K9’s need to be approachable. Both Ax and Orbe tested great for this.”
We’ll have several posts over the next few months focusing on the TMC Security Department and their K9’s, including the crucial decoy training the dogs go through, their typical day, and how TMC Security assists the Tucson Police Department in a jurisdiction that is larger than the city of South Tucson!