For Sgt. Jeff Salstrom, tomorrow’s patrol shift will start off just like any other for the past seven years. He will get up, eat, get dressed in his uniform, put on his gun belt and then step outside and walk to his Hoquiam Police Department cruiser. And just like he has every workday for seven years, Salstrom’s K-9 partner “Enno” will sprint to the rear door of the cruiser and wait eagerly to be let in.
But this shift, something will be different. Salstrom will sit down with Enno for a while, pet him, talk to him, calm him down and then walk away and do something he hasn’t done over the past seven years — go on patrol without him.
“That’s going to be the hard part, when he’s not here,” he said. “It’s gonna be different. If people see me talking to myself in my car it’s because I am used to talking to him.”
This week the Hoquiam Police Department announced that its police dog Enno was being taken off the duty roster. A fast-growing tumor was discovered this month behind his left eye. Salstrom, Enno’s partner and caregiver, said the prognosis isn’t very hopeful. Enno has already gone blind in the eye, and it bulges noticeably.
Surgery is not an option, so on Tuesday Salstrom will take Enno to an animal cancer specialist and hopefully shrink the tumor with radiation treatment. If successful, the treatment would buy Enno six to nine more months of comfortable life. If not, Salstrom will have to do the unthinkable.
“I may have to put him to sleep, which I don’t want to do,” he said. “The most important thing is, I don’t want him to suffer.”
Enno took his last ride as a K-9 officer on Thursday.
Enno’s illness is a major loss to the Hoquiam Police Department and the entire organization is grieving. Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Myers said watching Enno fade is like watching a family friend die.
“Having one of our members dying of cancer … it’s been a rough couple of days,” Myers said, adding later, “This cancer will not only end his career, it will end his life.”
For those outside the law enforcement community, it is difficult to understand how close K-9 officers are with their dogs. Enno is Salstrom’s patrol partner, which means that the trust they have for each other has been forged in life and death situations. But Enno is more than a work dog. When Enno is not on 12-hour patrols, he lives at Salstrom’s house just like any of his other dogs. But Enno is singularly dedicated to Salstrom. He follows him around the house wherever he goes and even sleeps on the floor next to his place in bed. The two are constant companions. “I spend more time with him than I do my own family, he’s always there,” he said.
Enno’s career with the Hoquiam department began seven years ago. Salstrom, who had wanted to be a K-9 officer since he was 11, was chosen to partner with Enno.
“I’ve been lucky, for the past seven years I’ve gotten to live my dream,” Salstrom said. “He loves to go to work. Every time I go outside he runs to his door on the car. Whenever I pull out his tracking harness, he gets excited.”
The purebred German shepherd, who is 10 years old now, was brought over from Germany. Even now, he is trained only to respond to commands in German.
A “patrol generalist” who was trained to search for suspects, evidence and narcotics, Enno quickly proved his value by cornering a suspect in the SouthShore Mall until police could surround him. “Our very first capture was a guy that had broken into Sears,” Salstrom said smiling.
In all, Enno made 57 criminal apprehensions. Enno also helped solve crimes by finding evidence, such as a ski mask casually left near some tire tracks after a robbery. Enno honed in on the mask, and evidence techs processed it, yielding DNA from hairs found in the mask. Two suspects, a man and a woman, when confronted with a DNA match, confessed to the crime.
“Had it not been for the dog finding the ski mask the crime would have been unsolved.” Salstrom said.
Both Salstrom and Enno have been injured on duty, and in typical K-9 fashion, they did it together. In 2009, Salstrom and Enno were chasing a vehicle theft suspect through a wooded area when Salstrom slipped down a hill and off a cliff. He fell 30 feet and then landed on a railroad tie. The fall left him critically injured. With numerous cuts and scrapes, not to mention several broken ribs and both of his lungs punctured, Salstrom crawled through thick brush to get to a road. He signaled a deputy with a flashlight and then, with the deputy’s help, he called Enno. For some reason Enno came down the same path Salstrom took and fell as well. Enno suffered numerous injuries, including five broken ribs and bruised lungs. Salstrom said as he was laying on the road, barely able to move, he could hear Enno in pain.
“I was more worried about him than myself,” he said.
As important as Enno has been as a patrol dog, perhaps his most important role has been as an ambassador for the Hoquiam department. The dog’s extremely outgoing and friendly nature, when he is not pursuing a suspect, make him ideal for being around children. Enno has made public safety education much more engaging to children and helped them to better understand police work. Salstrom said that when he took Enno to classes, children normally pounced on Enno with outstretched hands. Enno’s typical response was to roll over on his back and enjoy the ride. He was also a mainstay at police headquarters and, according to Myers, was always up for any game with a tennis ball.
“He’s a wonderful dog. We took him to school. We took him everywhere. He’s one of those dogs you could take anywhere,” Salstrom said.
In addition to the effect of Enno’s sickness on Salstrom, is the effect it is having on his wife and their three children, all boys, ages 3, 8 and 9. Enno is one of the Salstrom’s family dogs. In July, Salstrom had to put down Dawson, a 13-year-old Husky mix.
“They have an idea what is going on,” he said. “The older boys understand it. The younger one, he doesn’t really understand.”