National Geographic : 1958 Aug
Intelligent and eager, man's oldest friend learns new ways to catch thieves, find the lost, and master other tricky tasks Dogs Work for Man By EDWARD J. LINEHAN, National Geographic Magazine Staff Paintings by Edwin Megargee and R. E. Lougheed N EERIE DRAMA unfolds in the night hours inside one of New York's largest department stores. Faint lights bathe empty aisles and laden counters. The din of shopping crowds has surrendered to stillness, punctured only by distant traffic clangor. Enter, as if from nowhere, a spectral black creature. Swiftly it pads down the central aisle, explores each corridor, weaves past shrouded showcases and clothing racks. Man nequins, frozen in lifelike pose, stare as the big dog trots by-seeking, always seeking. The trim Doberman pinscher stops ab ruptly, swings its narrow nose like a settling compass needle. Ears twitch erect; muscles tense. A growl rumbles from its throat. Behind a counter ... there! A few bounds and the dog confronts a cowering figure in dark raincoat and pulled down cap: a thief who hid at closing time, to loot the store and walk out boldly with the morning crowds. Dog Takes Thief into Custody Crisp, ringing barks fetch the animal's handler at a run from a distant doorway. He orders the intruder to lean, facing a wall, hands high. He points and gives the dog a low, urgent command: "Watch him!" For long minutes Red Star, pride of Macy's 10-dog guard force, holds his post a yard from the prowler's heels, a study in canine vigilance. He seems chillingly eager for his captive to make a gesture toward escape. "Okay, Red," the handler says finally. "Heel!" The dog trots obediently to his side and wags at his reward for a job well done, an affectionate pat on the head. This purposeful drama, in which another handler portrays the thief, is played and replayed at Macy's as part of a constant train ing program to keep its dogs alert, efficient, and interested in their lifetime task. 190 To learn how a department store watch dog is taught his job, I visited Macy's and Francis X. Fay, its Director of Security. Fay, a brisk, gray-haired former Air Force Intelligence officer who once headed the FBI's New York office, told me that about six years ago the store was plagued by nighttime thefts, one alone accounting for $12,000 in furs. Having seen military sentry dogs trained during World War II, he persuaded Macy's officials to try canine patrolmen. "We couldn't be happier over the results," he said. Sudden Stop to Burglary In the 10 months before the dogs arrived, guards apprehended 12 intruders after store hours; nobody knows how many escaped un detected. In October, 1952, four dogs began patrolling the store's two million square feet of floor space and its hundreds of potential hiding places. "To our knowledge," said Fay, "we haven't lost a penny in merchandise to burglars since." We stepped out onto the wind-swept roof 20 floors above the street, possibly the loftiest dog kennel in the United States. A fierce clamor broke loose from wire-fenced runs. "They don't see many strangers," Fay apologized. "We discourage them from 'frat ernizing' with anyone but their four handlers and me. Some night it might save a dog from a prowler with a knife or poison." Each 20-foot pen enclosed an insulated doghouse and a sleek black-and-tan Dober man. The dogs writhed with delight at seeing Fay, and fixed me with cool brown-eyed stares. All were magnificent specimens. Five, in fact, had been sired by Ch. Rancho Dobe's Storm, twice winner of the Westminster Ken nel Club's Best in Show award.* *See "Westminster, World Series of Dogdom," by John W. Cross, Jr., NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGA ZINE, January, 1954.