When the UT Police Department introduced its K-9 program five years ago, Corporal Mary Cameron sent her husband a text.
“What do you think about a dog?” she said.
“Sweet,” he responded.
“What about a K-9?” she asked.
“OK,” he replied.
“He knew I would be working nights and weekends and he was on board,” Cameron said, noting that the lifestyle change that came with becoming one of UTPD’s first K-9 officers would affect her family as well.
Cameron, a nine-year veteran of the police department, is based in the patrol division and also works special events with Tica, a six-and-a-half-year-old Belgian Malinois. The dog is certified in explosive ordnance detection. She was born in Poland and brought to the United States through Iron Heart High Performance Working Dogs in Shawnee, Kansas.
“The way that society has become, it’s not if a bad event happens but when,” Cameron said. “Tica helps to give a sense of security because she’s good at what she does. Visitors who come to campus say, ‘I appreciate you for taking care of me.’”
Cameron said she has always had an interest in K-9s thanks to her sister, who is a police officer and works for a department that employs them. Watching Tica get excited about her job is rewarding, she said. To Tica, it’s not work, it’s play time.
“I want her to retire never finding anything other than the training aids we place,” she said.
When she’s not working, Tica puts a healthy distance between herself and humans and dogs, especially other female dogs.
“Her personality is ‘if I get to know you, I’ll decide if I want you to pet me. If not, I won’t let you. It’s on my terms,’” Cameron said. “She talks in the patrol car all day long. But at home, she’s quiet and she chills.”
As for her name, Cameron isn’t sure what it means. “Crazy child?” she asked with a laugh.
In retirement, Tica will likely want to climb on the couch and eat a steak and not get into trouble. For now, she’ll settle for the occasional accidental drop of food on the ground at home, courtesy of Cameron and her husband.
“She likes when daddy eats popcorn because he spills popcorn on the floor,” Cameron said.
Lola Alapo (865-974-1094, firstname.lastname@example.org)