Honoring the Canine Heroes of the ATF

“Some people think I sent him after the guy who was shooting. That’s not our policy,” Kunz says. “It’s not my policy as a handler to send him after somebody who’s shooting at us. The suspect I sent him at was unarmed, fleeing from us. Nash acted to protect us on his own.”

Nash’s instinct to protect his team of human agents may have been a result of the team-building activities the canines and their handlers engage in together, it may have been his canine pack instincts, or it may have been a combination of both. Kunz was devastated that the suspect pulled out a gun and started firing before he could call Nash back.

When Nash died in the line of duty, Kunz knew he couldn’t tell his family, at home in south Florida, over the phone. So his supervisor put him on a plane for home immediately.

“My wife was devastated, my son was devastated. It took — I can’t even say they’re over it yet. The dog was basically a family pet, a working dog, and he left and didn’t come back. They didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.”

In the time since Nash’s act of heroism, Kunz has been partnered with a new canine officer, Jager. Jager is becoming part of the family, Kunz says, and they’re taking time to integrate him properly with their other canine family member, a Golden Retriever.

Nash was memorialized with a plaque in ATF’s D.C. headquarters courtyard, and will be memorialized further with a life-sized replica statue that will be placed in the new auditorium and conference hall at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Brunswick, Georgia.

Part of the Family

While the dogs are owned by the government, they live — and stay in the house — with their handlers. “When these canines retire, we do whatever is best for the dog. If that means retiring to the handler’s family, that’s exactly what we do. We want this hero to know they will always be cared for, and a member of the family,” Perryman says.

Including Ike, there are nine canine teams spread across the country in ATF’s tactical canine program. The agents behind the dogs are heroes in their own right. Thomas Brandon, the Deputy Director for the ATF, is passionate about the brotherhood that exists amongst this group of humble public servants who work diligently to protect and serve. These are the best of the best law enforcement agents working to fight the worst of the worst criminals.

Brandon says, “There’s a quote from Winston Churchill — and I really believe this — ‘You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.’ I’ve been privileged to be put in this position. I’ve been trying to give back, to help focus on our mission. And if you can help people along the way, sometimes that’s what money can’t buy.”

This article originally appeared in the winter issue of HealthyPet Magazine.

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