A Toronto Police dog and his handler are the recipients of a prestigious United States Police Canine Association Award.
Sirk, the Service’s third cadaver dog, and Sergeant Sean Thrush were recognized with the Catch of the Quarter Award for finding the remains of a Toronto man in York region.
On June 11, the officer and his canine partner were summoned to a parking lot where the missing person’s vehicle was located.
“There was a vast ravine and wooded area south of the lot and it was heavily overgrown with weeds, tangled brush and deadfall,” recalled Thrush. “About 150 metres into the search after the decision was made to work the dog offline, Sirk – who has a strong aversion to deep water and swimming and will usually avoid it unless absolutely necessary – started to show a heightened interest in the river edge.”
Just under an hour into the search, Sirk located the deceased remains on a fallen log in an area of thick brush and foliage. A rifle was also located near the body.
“While winning an award is a huge honour, the greatest reward for cadaver detection work is the closure you are able to help give family and friends of the deceased,” said Thrush.
This is the second major canine award that Sirk and Thrush have won in the last two years.
In 2013, Sirk captured the cadaver detection event at the recent United States Police Canine Association police dog two-day trials in Michigan. This section of the competition comprised searching vehicles and a large wooded area.
The dogs were judged on their ability to find hidden objects and their eagerness to work.
“It’s nice to get the recognition for the many years of training and calls that we do,” said Thrush, who joined the Service in 2000 and spent six years with Police Dog Services (PDS) before being promoted in July 2014 to Sergeant and assigned to 51 Division. “There is a lot of good work that our dogs and their handers do each day that’s not publicized.”
Thrush has enjoyed working with Sirk who is nearing retirement.
“He has a good propensity for work and he’s exceptionally sociable and loyal companion,” he said.
Though he is no longer assigned to PDS, an exception was made to allow Thrush to continue working with Sirk, and his other dog, Skye – a narcotics and firearms-detection Springer Spaniel that will be retired soon – until their replacements could be trained.
“I was able to keep both dogs and assist PDS with searches for cadavers, drugs and firearms,” said Thrush.
Both dogs have served the Service with distinction.
In her first week on the job, Skye found a large quantity of drugs. Sirk, on the other hand, has been involved in several high-profile searches for human remains, including those of a Scarborough businesswoman whose body parts were found at opposite ends of the city three years ago.