P.O. John Morris and Odin Photo: Denise Civiletti

It’s a bond unlike most others.

“I love my wife,” veteran Riverhead K9 officer Jack Doscinski jokes, “but my dog is with me all the time.”

The bond between K9 partners — best friends — is forged at first like all human-canine bonds, but it’s developed over months of intense training together, followed by years of working together and being together 24/7.

Riverhead’s other K9 handler, John Morris, suffered a devastating loss when his partner Rocky was killed in a car accident Sept. 2. Morris was in pursuit of a suspect who injured two fellow officers in a DWI checkpoint and fled, leading police on a high-speed chase across town. 

“The outpouring of love and concern from the community was very moving,” Morris said.

People and businesses stepped up to donate money for the purchase and training of another K9 dog. Through their generosity and support, Riverhead was able to acquire Odin.

Odin, like many police dogs, was bred in Germany by a specialty breeder. German Shepherds are the breed of choice for police work, Morris said. They are strong, stable and agile and their coats are very protective. They have great noses. They can fight when it’s required of them. But they can “turn it on and off like a light switch.” One minute, they’re playful, gentle family dogs and the next minute, they’re at work — fierce and fearsome.

Morris said his kids named the dog after the Norse god Odin because of his power. In Norse mythology Odin is also associated with wisdom, knowledge, battle, healing and royalty.

Where Odin the German Shepherd is concerned, however, enthusiasm, exuberance and energy top the list of character traits. The two-year-old male — police dogs are generally all males because female dogs want to stay close to their handlers to protect them, while males will more readily leave their handlers’ sides on command — is a bundle of energy.

Odin’s focus is pleasing Morris. The dog’s eyes and attention remain trained on his handler, who calls out commands in German. Odin does as he’s told and Morris rewards him with a piece of kielbasa.


Odin and Morris are currently about halfway through an 18-week training to become certified as a K9 patrol unit. In the fall, they will train in narcotics detection.

The dogs’ skills and abilities — indeed their very presence — make a huge difference in police work, the officers explain.

They are trained to track odors emitted by humans — sweat, deodorants, soaps and the like. They are also trained to track occupational odors — gasoline and oil, for example — and ground disturbances, like broken blades of grass.

“When we go to a scene, we know how to take it apart,” Doscinski said.

“Dogs can’t talk to us,” said Suffolk County Police Sgt. James Curley of the canine training section. “They communicate through their body language and by observing their body language and learning the feel of the lead, we learn to understand them.”

“You really learn to read the dog,” Doscinski said. His current K9 partner, Titan, is his fourth dog.

K9 “Rocky” in November 2011 with handler P.O. John Morris, with members of the family of former chief Roscoe “Rocky” Palmer outside Riverhead Town Hall. File photo: Denise Civiletti

‘He still always amazed me’

Suffolk’s police K9 handlers are a family, though they work for different police agencies. They come together at the canine training section in Yaphank for initial and continued training. They also help each other in the field on a regular basis.

The bond these officers have with each other was on full display in September when K9 units from across the region attended a special farewell for Rocky at Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton. Dozens of K9 handlers and dogs stood together in salute as Rocky’s funeral procession passed through the parking lot in the park. It was an emotional moment for all — especially, of course, for Morris, who worked with Rocky for seven years.

“He still always amazed me,” Morris said.

P.O. Jack Doscinski and Titan Photo: Denise Civiletti

Riverhead Police Sgt. Jonathan Devereaux supervises the department’s K9 units, handling scheduling, ordering food, making vet appointments.

“I’ve gotten to experience some of the great things these dogs have done on patrol,” Devereaux said.

He recalled an incident where an autistic child had run away from Little Flower in Wading River. Police had a helicopter with infrared radar searching for the child, he said. They couldn’t locate him.

“It was a bitter cold night and we were afraid he’d freeze to death,” Devereaux said. “We deployed Gator [a past Riverhead K9] and he found him within 20 or 30 minutes.”

“They are an invaluable resource,” Morris said

 

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.