K-9 officer and his dog: A bond that makes them a formidable team

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CARSON CITY, Nev. (KOLO) "Driver, put your hands in the air," an officer yells as he crouches by his cruiser.

It's a high-risk, high intensity traffic stop. A stolen vehicle. The man inside uncooperative, perhaps armed. A dangerous encounter for a lone patrolman. His partner, however, is up to the challenge.

"Do it now. It's your final warning. Put your hands in the air or I'm sending in the dog."

With no response, he unleashes his dog, a dark blur as it charges the car, leaping through an open window. The man screams in alarm and quickly surrenders.

We're watching a training exercise, but tonight on duty this is something Carson City Deputy Sheriff Jimmy Surrat and his four-year-old Belgian Malinois, Chico, could face for real. The outcome will depend on how well this partnership works.

Surrat is a veteran handler, but the partnership is new. He picked Chico from other candidates himself and they started working together just a month and a half ago.

"We just kinda clicked. We have the same personality."

Someday, perhaps tonight, Surrat's life and the lives of others will depend on the strength of this partnership.

"We're just figuring each other out. I can tell you we're bonding a lot quick than I did with my first two dogs. He's the best tool I have by far."

And he's his partner.

"He's my best friend for sure."

Here at work, Chico is like a tightly wound spring, ready for action at a moment's notice.

"Oh yeah, it's time to go to work. That switch. That's what we look for."

Tonight when the two go home, not so much.

"He needs his time off to relax and walks. I throw the ball for him and he's just lays down and sleep."

The dogs live with their handlers. Chico sleeps inside along with Ary, his predecessor. They are, off duty, family pets. They even go with the family on vacations.

"He's part of the family."

When you spend every waking hour at work and at home, the bond, the partnership grows.

"He's my best tool, my partner, my buddy,"

In the years ahead, Jimmy and Chico will undoubtedly experience searching hundreds of buildings and cars, make many arrests, find illegal drugs and lost children. And they will face danger. And together they and their community will be safer for the bonds they're building.

How good is Chico at this point? How good is he going to be?

"He's my dog. I think he's the best.," says Surrat with a grin. "I think he's going to be great. I've seen a lot of dogs. I think we're going to be an outstanding team. I think we're going to be excellent."