A California K-9 cop may have finally found his perfect match
When Officer Steve Booth first heard the name of the dog that would become his new partner, they had him at Dragon
Reprinted with permission from Behind the Badge
By Jessica Peralta
Becoming a K9 officer has held its share of bumps in the road for Westminster Police Officer Steve Booth. But when he first heard the name of the dog that would become his new partner, they had him at Dragon.
“I’m a huge, huge, huge ‘Game of Thrones’ fan,” Booth said. “Just his name alone, I’m in.”
Booth quickly realized there was a lot more to the 75-pound, brindle-colored, 3-year-old Dutch shepherd than a cool name.
“His personality is amazing,” Booth said. “He was one of the most highly trained dogs that Adlerhorst has ever brought back from overseas. He’s a total sweetheart at home. He’s super friendly. When it’s time to switch it on, he’s a completely different dog.”
Dragon was selected in November 2020 and graduated from K9 school around Christmas. Though the team has been patrolling Westminster for about three months now, Booth’s connection to police K9s began many years ago.
Booth wanted to become a K9 handler before he even became a police officer. He’s been at the Westminster Police Department for about 16 years now, but only recently had the chance to fulfill this lifelong dream.
“This has been such a long journey for me,” Booth told Behind the Badge in 2019. “I’ve been through quite a bit to get this spot.”
When Booth first joined the Westminster Police Department, the agency had no K9 program. But that didn’t stop Booth. He immersed himself as a police K9 decoy (aka an agitator), wearing a suit and taking bites from dogs working at agencies across the country. And he wrote in-depth proposals for various Westminster police chiefs requesting they bring back the program, but was denied at the time.
He’d decided to join detectives and was about a year in when there was some movement toward a possible return of the K9 program. Booth resigned from detectives, knowing that department policy requires a six-month break between special assignments. He wanted to be ready for the opportunity to apply for the K9 officer spot if and when it opened. When the spot finally did open, he was four months into the required six-month break between special assignments and was not eligible for the new K9 program assignment.
But again, Booth continued toward his ultimate goal. Since he already has a German shepherd and a Chihuahua mix at home, he decided to separate his backyard into two yards in the event that his future K9 didn’t get along with them. He also took the RV parking area at his home, gutted it, put turf down and spent several thousand dollars building a kennel with security cameras and all for the dog he did not yet have.
But then in 2019 it happened.
A K9 position was approved and opened. Booth applied and finally became a police K9 officer.
He was partnered with a 2-year-old black-and-tan German shepherd named Ranger.
But then, as occasionally happens with K9 teams, it didn’t work out. Ranger was medically retired after about a year. Now Ranger (known as Jack at home) is a member of Booth’s pet household. And he still has his own yard.
Dragon has integrated well at the house. Though not technically a pet, he gets along just fine with the existing members of the pet household.
“He loves my daughter,” Booth said. “Has no issues with anybody. He’s a total goof ball at home.”
And he’s already proven himself out in the field. He successfully apprehended an armed robbery suspect on Valentine’s Day. He has also elicited several surrenders as well.
“He’s switched on at all the right times,” Booth said.
In fact, Dragon is doing so well, he’s anticipating a new job soon: narcotics K9. Dragon and Booth are hoping to attend drug detection school in the near future.
Booth is looking forward to settling in with his new partner.
“It’s been super easy, almost too easy so far,” Booth said. “He’s a hard dog not to connect with.”