The manufacturing facilities of the Northwestern Steel and Wire Company stretch for four miles (there are three separate plants) along the Rock River in Sterling, situated in western Illinois near the Iowa border. The company, with $400 million in annual sales and some 2,700 workers, makes fencing, steel parts, and Sterling nails, whose distinctive red-white-and-blue box is probably familiar to most consumers. For the night shift of September 23-24, some of those 2,700 employees stowed their street clothes in metal lockers and proceeded innocently to work in the giant plants stretching along the river.
Little did they know that at around 1:30 that morning, three dogs would show up at Northwestern Steel much more obsessed with their jobs than the workers probably were with making nails. The dogs were Thor, a black Labrador, a golden retriever named Maple, and the leader of the pack, Max the German shepherd. Their passion–to their owners, a well-paid passion–was to sniff out contraband drugs, in this case from workers’ lockers.
Six-year-old Max led off the search, beginning in the locker room of Northwestern’s nail plant. “Easy, easy, dope, dope,” purred Max’s handler, a young man named Steve Jaeger, as the shepherd sniffed his way past the steel gray lockers. Steve wore the brown jumpsuit of National K-9 Security, the Northbrook firm conducting the quest. Onlookers included a half-dozen security people from Northwestern and Bill Taylor, 48, National K-9’s owner.
Bill is a garrulous man with a mustache and a 300-pound girth, which he justifies by saying, “I was married once, and my wife drove me to eat.” Bill was dressed informally beneath his official National K-9 jacket. The security people, who had on green pith helmets marked “SAFETY,” seemed as rabid as Max about finding drugs. One guy held huge metal cutters at the ready, his mission to sever any errant worker’s lock at a moment’s notice. “Shit, looka that doggie go,” another security officer marveled at the velocity of Max’s sniffing.
Suddenly Max stopped in front of a locker and started sniffing fast, in short bursts. Then he pawed at the metal. Jaeger took Max on another pass. Max only pawed harder. All the security personnel eyed one another knowingly, and security chief Chuck Lancaster, a sly-eyed, potbellied man in a windbreaker, ordered the man holding the metal cutters to slice open the lock. The locker revealed a pair of gloves, a length of rope, and a yellow helmet. “I tell you, this looks like an old-timer’s locker,” remarked Lancaster as he rifled the employee’s belongings.
Failing to uncover even a single marijuana joint, Lancaster looked toward Bill Taylor for an explanation. “Max could have picked up an odor off those old gloves,” said Taylor. “I can’t explain it exactly, but the odor is there.” Lancaster and Taylor then pondered whether the rope might not be coated with asbestos. “Now why he has that shit in his locker, I don’t know,” offered Lancaster, referring to the alleged asbestos. “It’s dangerous as hell to breathe. But that rope was about all there is in this locker, that and those filthy-ass gloves.” The old-timer’s locker abandoned, the search proceeded. “Let’s go out in the parking lot and get some fresh air,” suggested Lancaster, who wanted fresh air less than the opportunity, with Thor now leading the chase, to shine a spotlight into suspicious cars.
The consequences to an employee of finding drugs among his belongings is at most a couple days’ suspension, perhaps an arbitration hearing. Three previous K-9 searches at Northwestern had produced only one marijuana pipe in a worker’s clothes, resulting in a short suspension for the son of a union boss. Nevertheless, Lancaster seemed possessed. Once Thor lingered at the tire of a red Chevy truck, and Lancaster nearly exploded with anticipation, directing his spotlight feverishly into the interior. Sadly, however, no drugs materialized in the parking lot.
In fact, aside from Taylor purposely planting a marijuana-scented inhaler for his dogs to find, it was slim pickings all around. The dogs failed to sniff out any drugs not only in the parking lot but also in the locker room of the second plant, the one that churns out steel flats and channels (U-shaped pieces used in construction). Still, the half-dozen security people trailing Lancaster were as possessed as their chief. They riveted their eyes upon the particular dog doing the searching, and when the dog stopped, they paid rapt attention until the locker was opened–and turned out empty. In what seemed a spin on Pavlovian theory, the dogs salivated and the men reacted.
At 3 AM, the National K-9 dogs were finishing their duties in the changing quarters of the last plant, the I-beam plant. Suddenly Max picked up an odor from a locker. The dog scratched and scratched, and Lancaster ordered the lock cut off. Lancaster shed his coat (auguring a big-time bust) and supervised the inspection of the locker’s contents. A letter was passed around. A stick of chewing gum materialized in a shirt pocket, and then someone discovered a piece of tinfoil; unwrapped, the foil was found to contain a white substance. “Is it hash?” someone asked, and Lancaster took a whiff. No, he concluded, but then again maybe it was. The potential hashish was carried outside by Jaeger, who subjected it to examination by a portable narcotics test. Lancaster and Bill Taylor looked on avidly. “It’s some sort of cake,” Jaeger said when he was done.
National K-9 is a company that specializes in derring-do by dogs. Do you, a company executive, have a drug problem among your drones? The dogs of National K-9 Security will ferret out the drugs on your premises, or try to. Are you a high school principal with the sweet smell of marijuana hanging in your halls? National K-9 will perform a search–for free yet. Or maybe you’re a car-lot owner with overnight theft eating into your profits? Forget about hiring a human guard or installing an alarm system. National K-9 has the dog for you, a suitably vicious creature that will see the intruder’s elbow as its natural sustenance.
The American Civil Liberties Union may take exception to an outfit like National K-9, but their objections flow like water off Bill Taylor’s broad back. He feels he’s doing society a service, keeping businesses safe and drug-free. Besides, it’s a living.
Taylor’s business is his 160 dogs: they include some 130 German shepherds, 25 Dobermans, 2 rottweilers, and 1 Akita, a Japanese attack animal. The dogs live in a cement-block building behind National K-9’s main office, an old Victorian house on Milwaukee Avenue in Northbrook. Each dog consumes two bowls of food a day, a mix of dry meal leavened with canned meat, restaurant leftovers, bread, rice, and Wesson oil. “Most of our animals work nights,” explains Taylor, “so we force them to sleep during the day.” A daytime tour through the kennel, however, finds some dogs dozing and some barking their lungs out.
You might think there would be a problem in naming all those dogs, but Taylor has an easy solution–he adorns one main name with various adjectives and accents. For instance, not only is there Max, but Black Max, White Max, Max the Do, and Climax. Princess has compatriots in Little Princess, Big Princess, Fuzzy Princess, and Black-White Princess. There are all manners of Duke, including one named Bar Stool Duke. “His name was Duke,” says Taylor of the naming process, “and we took him to a factory that makes bar stools.”
All but about 20 of the National K-9 brood are vicious. “Our guard dogs are trained to do two things,” says Bill Taylor, “walk into a muzzle, and bite.” Moreover, viciousness is their natural bent–the bulk of the National dogs are either given to Taylor or purchased by him, after they have bitten people and their owners have decided to unload them, often under pressure from animal-control agencies. Taylor then trains the dogs as if he were handing out advanced degrees in brutality. In “agitation class,” a dog learns to respond to an insult. A group of dogs are attached by spring-powered chains to railroad ties in the ground. A man, who dons progressively more protection as the dogs become more aggressive–first a burlap bag, then a padded arm, and finally a padded suit–provokes them. “They have to learn to be aggressive, not to back down,” explains Taylor. “They must have the attitude that they are going to win.” When they have been fully vaccinated against rabies, distemper, and so on, the dogs are finally put to work as walking ammunition.
A dozen National dogs have been schooled on an obstacle course to accompany a human guard on patrol and obey his commands. The choicest few, six to be exact, show the necessary skills for drug work. “The first thing you want is a dog that doesn’t just like to retrieve things but has an obsession for it,” says Taylor. Take Max, for instance. Taylor says that if you put both a ball and a mound of hamburger out in the yard, Max will go for the ball over the meat. When Taylor finds such an animal, he promptly subjects the dog to drug training.
To train the dog, marijuana is placed inside a ball, so when the dog fetches it he associates the fun he’s having with the smell. Next “pseudo-cocaine” and “pseudo-heroine,” chemical facsimiles of the narcotics, are put into the ball. Finally real drugs are used. (Taylor is licensed by both the Illinois Department of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to receive hard drugs for training purposes. Acquisition is easy. He buys cocaine, for instance, from the Louis Zahn Drug Company. “With heroin it’s usually confiscated stuff,” relates Taylor. “Sometimes police departments will sign it over to me.”) Taylor claims that National’s drug dogs are 90 percent accurate in picking up the odor of drugs. He further claims that they actually make a find “30 to 40 percent of the time.”
National’s guard dogs go out nightly to protect a wide range of city and suburban companies: car repossessors and dealerships, construction firms, transmission shops, and the south-side auto pound of the city of Chicago. Some clients come and go seasonally–the summer brings in landscaping firms, the holidays Christmas tree lots–but most customers sign on with National for seven nights a week. The service of two dogs for a week sets them back $175.
Workplace drug searches ($450) arise six to eight times a month now, what with a growing perception that workers are major users. (Among employed people 20 to 40 years old, 30 percent a year now use an illicit drug, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.) Over the last couple of years Taylor’s dogs have sniffed for drugs two dozen times at the Dresden, Braidwood, and La Salle nuclear power plants, according to Commonwealth Edison. “We are fortunate that Bill has never found anything on our property,” says Barry Saunders, the security administrator at the power plants. Taylor executes searches for free at high schools, where he does usually find what he’s looking for.
National K-9 boasts 26 employees and gross annual revenues of $700,000–it’s the largest dog-security firm in the Chicago area. More to the point, its dogs have perfected their profession.
A weekday evening spent dropping off the guard dogs gave an indication of that. At around 7 PM, a flatbed truck began its round by driving down Halsted, just west of Cabrini-Green. The huge, bright yellow frame on the back of the truck contained 34 dogs crammed into 13 small pens. The city regiment of National guard dogs was on its way to its posts for the evening.
The regimental commander was Don Shipley, the driver of the truck. At 16, he started out as a “shit shoveler” for the Kenosha, Wisconsin, animal humane society. In time he became a dogcatcher and now, at 30 years old, he is working for Bill Taylor. Shipley not only delivers guard dogs in the early evening and picks them up in the morning, he lives upstairs from National K-9’s main office. Call the 24-hour National dispatch line, and you’re apt to get Don. Shipley cherishes the dogs he delivers. He knows each one’s name and personality, and he goes out of his way to make their lives complete. For instance, someone Shipley knows owns a Ponderosa Steakhouse, and Don will secure bones for his dogs so they have something extra to chew on.
First stop on Shipley’s evening rounds was a construction site near Clybourn and Division. Shipley got out of his truck and unhinged a cage in back, conducting two shepherds into what will soon be a medical center serving Cabrini-Green. Usually the guard dogs assigned are a husband-wife team, in this case Champ and White Princess, because the dogs get along better. Shipley carefully shooed the duo into the building, marked with a sign that there were “trained attack dogs” inside, and then he ruminated for a minute about Champ’s proclivities, which he seemed eager to impress on me.
“This is for sure, Champ’s not a racist dog,” said Shipley. “He’s not prejudiced. He’ll go after blacks, whites, Puerto Ricans. If I hadn’t been holding onto Champ just now, he’d have gone after you, no sweat. He’d play with you until you stopped bouncing. Champ doesn’t just bite, he tears–he’ll close his upper jaw to his lower jaw, around your arm, and just go to town. To him, the bloodier the better.”
“Our newer dogs will just bite,” said Shipley, segueing from the subject of Champ to the general character of his troops. “Most of our dogs are different, though. When they are provoked, they put all their weight on their hind legs, ready to jump in your face. They don’t bite you out of fear; they bite you because they want to bite you. Now if you have a dog whose tail is up constantly, that’s the kind that will stay with you until you quit moving, like Champ. When you get right down to it, these dogs love getting on my truck, love going to work, and when I pick ’em up in the morning, they are happy to see me.”
Shipley continued to drop off his dogs as the dusk deepened. Sparky and Lady, a shepherd and Doberman, went into a warehouse near Halsted and Chicago Avenue. The patch of fur missing from Sparky’s flank was the result of an intruder’s throwing battery acid on him. Lucky and Shambu trotted into the yard of the Rapid Bus Company, on Central just south of the Eisenhower Expressway. “These guys have been husband and wife for three years,” reported Shipley as the pair headed for a small doghouse National K-9 maintains in the yard. The house, containing a bottom layer of cedar chips and hay and a crummy blanket, affords some shelter from the elements. Two other dogs were furnished to the Olson Rug Company nearby; another couple were dropped at a near-west-side car wash “to keep the bums out,” said Shipley, “and the hookers.”
In fact, the National dogs prove amazingly proficient at keeping out invaders of all types–and savaging any stupid enough to come in. Or so National employees maintain. Case in point: a shepherd named Wolfy, whom Shipley deposited with care at a northwest-side transmission shop. Getting Wolfy inside the fence was in itself an ordeal. Wolfy was wearing a muzzle, made of wire and thick Naugahyde, when he dismounted the truck. Shipley had to padlock Wolfy to the inside of the fence in order to take off the muzzle, then unlock him. “He’ll bite car bumpers,” explained Shipley as Wolfy pranced away. Which humans Wolfy has assailed remains unknown, although evidently he once ravaged somebody. “One morning when I came to get Wolfy he had a pair of pants in his mouth,” Shipley remembered. “I asked the company if any dead bodies had shown up overnight, and they said none. So I guess Wolfy’s guy got away.” By Shipley’s reckoning, a Wolfy-patrolled piece of property is as safe as safe can be.
For three years Helene Curtis Industries has relied on National dogs, accompanied by handlers, to protect its warehouses at Grand and Kilpatrick. Previously, the site had been plagued by trespassing and vandalism, says corporate security director Jerry Brandt, but lately the problems “have gone down to zero.” The reason is the dogs, Brandt thinks: “We have the signs up, and the people who are the bad guys in this–the kids–are just so fearful of those dogs. They’ll see them and walk across the street just to avoid them.” Lately a dog-and-handler team has been an overnight fixture at the old Pettibone Corporation factory on West Division, which Helene Curtis bought and plans to raze to make way for a massive central warehouse.
Like Helene Curtis, Hans Rosenaw Roofing on the far-northwest side was once victimized by a rash of break-ins, which a variety of security measures–barbed wire, steel gates, the cops–did nothing to relieve. The National canines arrived two years ago, and now the burglaries have been altogether curtailed. Richard Rosenaw, the company president, had an experience early on that told him why. One night he went out to lock up a warehouse door for the night, just as the National dogs were being let loose. “They attacked,” recollects Rosenaw. “One grabbed one leg, and one the other. The person from National K-9 called them off, and I could see that I was getting my money’s worth.” Was he scared? “When you got two dogs hanging on you, you do have some feeling of insecurity.”
Rosenaw hasn’t been the only innocent to be “caught” by the dogs. “In the last year Raven and Thunder, two of our Dobes, have cornered a cop, a plumber, and a telephone repairman at one place or another,” Shipley relates. “The cop was called to a gay bar after a kid broke in on a Sunday afternoon. But let me tell you, when he saw those dogs he was petrified.”
Rarely do National dogs actually help collar a transgressor, although it does happen. Only weeks ago a pair of hapless teens stole into a Chicago Buick dealership after-hours to pilfer radios, only to confront a pair of National’s finest. When a guard, alerted by the dogs’ barking, discovered the culprits, one was on the outside trying to get his buddy, who was working inside a car, to leave. The guard summoned the police, and both youngsters were arrested. In the spring, a pair of shepherds trapped a couple of teenagers spray painting and otherwise vandalizing the old W.F. Hall printing plant on West Diversey. “They were scared as hell when they were found,” says Shipley, “just hanging from some water pipes.”
“We had a dog when I was young,” says Bill Taylor, who grew up in Skokie, the son of a liquor salesman. “It was a boxer, which we got from my uncle when I was a freshman in high school. He was obnoxious, so I went to a training class held at Byron and Ashland. It was then I decided I wanted to become a veterinarian.” Quigley Seminary enrolled Taylor for a year in high school, but he graduated from Loyola Academy in Wilmette. Afterward, he studied veterinary science at Northern Illinois University, a course of study that didn’t last; Bill dropped out and went into the Army. Later, married and in night school, Bill drove a milk truck for first the Bowman and then the Wanzer dairy. But though he came to be a union steward, Taylor tired of the routine.
His way out was to work for a dog-training school based in New York. Taylor operated the school’s Chicago office with a salesman, but after six months, in 1969, he and the salesman went into the dog-training game for themselves. The two of them split up two years later because Taylor was more drawn to the security aspect of the business than his partner. Taylor leased a kennel in Wheeling and owned one in Kenosha, but since 1972 he and his dogs have been located at their present location in Northbrook, which is well-known to a couple of well-known people. When Illinois Attorney General Neil Hartigan goes on vacation, he boards his golden retriever and his Lhasa apso with Taylor. As a favor to Bears owner Ed McCaskey, Taylor trained Willie Gault’s Samoyed.
For now, though, boarding is strictly a sideline. The guts of National K-9 is the security operation, which Taylor believes in wholeheartedly. The promotional calendar he distributes to clients has on its cover the black-and-white photograph of a snarling shepherd, its teeth bared. “Dogs are the best security measure you can buy,” argues Taylor. “Now you take alarms. You know how many false alarms there are with these services, and besides, the alarm is only as good as the guard who responds to it. And the guards from these services are slow, slow. Guards alone fall asleep. They do as little work as possible. Plus, just like you and I, a guard will be skeptical about walking into a dark area. Not one of my shepherds.”
Those shepherds have their critics, however. Jay Miller, executive director of the ACLU of Illinois, considers the use of brutal guard dogs a case of overkill. “You take a kid who climbs a fence. He wants a couple of hubcaps. Should he get killed for that? Where is the warning that there are dogs inside, and can a ten-year-old read it when he goes over that fence?” To Miller’s mind, these hypothetical examples contain the germ of a lawsuit for wrongful death or bodily injury.
Taylor’s response, first off, is that his signs are amply posted. It is also a little unclear exactly how much damage his dogs might actually do, or have done. “Very few dogs will actually kill,” says Taylor. “I’ve been in business 17 years, and I never had anybody killed. I’ve had people bit, but never to the extent that they’ve lost an arm or even a finger.”
Yet Taylor recognizes the problem, and talks about two employees who’ve been attacked (he doesn’t mention any intruders). “Being in the business I’m in, I’m a target,” he says. Once a dog mauled one of his drivers (“he bit him in the balls”); Taylor arranged a $2,000 settlement. The second incident involved Jericho, a shepherd that Shipley calls “the king of the kennel” because he has never lost a dogfight. A half-dozen years ago, Jericho bit a National kennel assistant on the elbow and broke it. Some weeks later Jericho managed to lift the same woman right off the ground by a death grip on her thigh (Taylor later discovered her cowering under a truck). Workmen’s compensation insurance took care of the woman’s problems, which included a cast on her arm for six weeks and stitches in her thigh. In any event, Taylor maintains a blanket liability insurance policy for $500,000, on which he pays $30,000 annually.
National K-9 faces no legal impediment to executing drug searches in the workplace, explains the ACLU’s Miller, since the Fourth Amendment constraints against unwarranted search and seizure apply only to governmental bodies. “A private company can do virtually anything it wants,” remarks Miller, “unless the union contract prohibits it. You don’t have to allow a search of your possessions, but then you can be fired and you just won’t work at the place anymore.”
The ramifications to the individual can be significant, Miller thinks: “Let’s say you live in a small town, and it gets out that you are a drug user. But you aren’t–they only searched your stuff. So your reputation is damaged. Maybe someone refuses to do business with you, maybe your fiancee develops doubts about marriage. People say mean stuff to you. Sure, you could sue as a tort action in the courts, for slander or invasion of privacy, but you’ll lose your job. People call us about this, but there’s nothing we can do.”
For his part, Taylor maintains he takes some care in being fair to the searched. Max must “alert” several times to someone’s space before Taylor will agree to have it scoured. As a rule, he says, the inspection usually comes only after the suspect has been afforded the opportunity to give permission. That is certainly the approach Commonwealth Edison takes, but not Northwestern Steel. “With them,” Taylor says, referring to Chuck Lancaster and his underlings, “you’re in farm country, where people are more redneck. You’re dealing with a good ol’ boy attitude, and what will be will be.” (Lancaster took a few follow-up questions over the phone on the Northwestern antidrug campaign, but he quickly begged off a full-scale interview.)
The ACLU has attempted to stop drug searches of high school students. On March 23, 1979, a dog team arrived at Highland Junior High School in Highland, Indiana, where under police and school supervision a search was conducted. Some students were strip searched in the course of the raid, and 17 students either drew suspensions, were expelled, or voluntarily left Highland Junior High. The upshot was a class-action suit on behalf of four girls who were strip searched, charging unconstitutional behavior by authorities. The suit, pursued with assistance from Miller’s branch of the ACLU, also contended that the dog-led search amounted to “unreasonable search and seizure,” a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
U.S. District Court Judge Allen Sharp, sitting in Hammond, ruled that August that the dogs’ pursuit of drugs did not abridge the Fourth Amendment. School officials, he said, “had outside independent evidence indicating drug use within the school. Use of the dogs to detect where those drugs were located was not unreasonable under the circumstances.” The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently struck down authorities’ right to strip search suspected druggies, but it let stand Judge Sharp’s ruling about the dogs.
Miller insists, however, that “this kind of thing [a dog-led drug search] is an embarrassment. Dogs can be frightening; the process of one of these searches is dehumanizing and belittling; and we think the Seventh Circuit made a mistake in not ruling this procedure unconstitutional.”
Since the Highland case, area schools have been given open license to make drug searches, and a few have done so. Taylor executes them for free because he feels he is performing a public service. Miller sees Taylor as succumbing to the “drug hysteria” currently in the air, but Taylor feels he’s more fair-minded than that, and that his reasoning is as applicable to the workplace as to the schools. “I know the consequences of drugs,” Taylor says. “I know what they can do. If someone wants to get blown out of his mind on his own time, that’s his business. But at work or in school, at least I can have a hand in controlling it there.”
His hand was apparent one recent Friday when Taylor, Steve Jaeger, Max, Thor, and Maple hit the road on a drug search of Grant Community High School in the northwest suburb of Fox Lake. Ideally, Taylor would like to loose his dogs on Cook County schools. “Now that’s where I could do some good,” he figures. “But they don’t want it in the city or the [Cook County] suburbs. They are afraid there’d be too much of an uproar. Is it needed? Sure. You take New Trier [in Winnetka]. It’s a Mardi Gras there; bringing my dogs in would be the best training they could get. But they’re afraid at New Trier, ’cause everybody’s father is an attorney.” (New Trier principal Ralph McGee did not return phone calls.) For now, Grant High is Taylor’s main school client.
Grant draws its 1,000 students from Fox Lake, Ingleside, and Spring Grove, where drugs are hardly a burning problem. Still, authorities there feel a proper dose of prevention is in order. “We try to keep the kids on their toes so we don’t have a problem,” says Fox Lake police chief Joseph Semasko, whose department helps import Bill Taylor and his dogs once or twice a year. The results, in terms of discovering contraband, have been skimpy. Two years ago, Max unearthed some marijuana stashed in film canisters near hot water pipes in both the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms at Grant. In addition, Taylor’s regular forays have yielded minor evidence of marijuana on several occasions; in the worst case, one boy got sentenced to in-school suspension for five days.
“Where’s the dope, Max, where’s the dope?” purred Jaeger as he trailed Max down row after row of Grant lockers one morning. The usual entourage looked on: Taylor, Police Chief Semasko, a bearded police sergeant, Grant Schools Superintendent Donald Klusendorf, and Howard “Bud” Scott, the dean of students (not to mention a clerk, pen at the ready, to determine whose locker was being entered, and, as at Northwestern Steel and Wire, a man clutching metal cutters). Tensions ran high as Max sniffed onward; only minutes later he was scratching feverishly at a locker.
The carrier of the metal cutters pierced the lock, and the locker yielded up a gray coat and a MacGregor gym bag–but no drugs. “I’d have to say there is an odor on the coat,” threw out Jaeger after several seconds. The search then resumed, and shortly thereafter Max began pawing at another locker. The door opened to reveal a blue-jean jacket and a backpack, but not even a scintilla of drugs. “You can smell pot,” offered one Grant employee, feeling compelled to join Jaeger in justifying Max’s performance. “It’s all over the jacket.”
Next Max and Jaeger paraded into a history classroom for a scheduled demonstration; Max was to locate a packet of marijuana the police sergeant had hidden in a girl’s purse. Max succeeded, divining the marijuana in a cheerleader’s bag, and Taylor beamed. The dog repeated a similar feat in a geography class.
After a break, Max resumed his pursuit in earnest. Finally, midway down a hallway, his nose directed him to a pale yellow locker belonging to a girl I’ll call Ellen. The locker turned out to contain the small leftover of a joint.
Taylor, Jaeger, and Max headed for home. “This is homecoming weekend,” remarked Taylor, cherishing the irony of the raid’s timing. “Talk about a ball-buster.”
Meanwhile, Ellen stood accused. Her mom was summoned to the school, yet the evidence, a tiny roach, was consider too inconsequential to merit Ellen a suspension. “The young lady will not be excluded from the school at this time,” Dean of Students Scott would say later.
At one time National K-9 had 243 dogs, but Taylor found he was “making less money at twice the headaches,” so he trimmed back his coterie. Last year he toyed with doing bomb detection, but problems developed. The short-haired pointer Bill assigned to this duty “was more interested in birds than bombs,” and there were insurance concerns. “Say I send a dog into a building and he says there’s nothing there,” explains Taylor. “Then say the building blows. Am I to blame for not finding the bomb?” In addition, his personnel were hardly eager for the bomb detail.
So now, in lieu of the bomb-detection scheme, Taylor is trying to realize another dream that’s even more ambitious.
After touring scores of kennels and cadging key ideas from facilities in Morristown, New Jersey, and Toledo, Ohio, Taylor is planning to erect the National Dog and Cat Hotel. “Now if you want to board your dog or cat, you take it to a vet and he puts the thing in a little cage. What I’m out to do is different.”
The National hotel will go up on Taylor’s current property, replacing its present buildings. A 25,000-square-foot facility to be constructed at a cost of more than $1 million, the hotel will provide a “very plush” environment in which a pet’s every need will be met without its ever stepping outdoors. There will be a reception area, veterinarian’s examination room, and grooming room, accented with an antique barber pole. The interior is to be illuminated by skylights and an atrium, and there will be a run and obstacle course.
The normal boarding cage is 36 by 36 inches, according to Taylor, but he is aiming for roomy chambers 4 feet wide and 14 feet long. For its occupant’s greater comfort, fake lambskin will cover the floor of each National cage. And there will be central air conditioning, of course. The boarders will be separated from the National K-9 dogs, Taylor promises, yet the quarters for the working stiffs are to be equally snazzy.
Bill envisions construction commencing before the ground freezes. The opening of the hotel-cum-National K-9 headquarters could come as early as next June.
Meanwhile, Bill continues in dog security. Some nights you can find him out visiting his guard dogs in the wee hours, rattling their fences to “agitate ’em” and keep their danders up. Some nights there’s a hot drug search. When there’s not, he goes home to sleep at his house in Skokie. He is long divorced. His housemate is Max, the drug dog, who sleeps on the floor next to Bill’s bed. “He won’t sleep with me,” Taylor reveals. “He wants to be in the same room with me, but he’s aloof. He’s not a huggy-kissy dog.”
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Jon Randolph.