Ice: the four-legged hero

Ice, the K-9 Belgian Malinois. Photo credit: Christopher Magallon
Ice, the K-9 Belgian Malinois. Photo credit: Christopher Magallon

By the U.S. Forest Service

The relationship between a K-9 dog and its handler is forged on the duty line. For many law enforcement officers, however, these dogs are their partners in life: they spend every waking moment together. This is no different for LEO Christopher Magallon and his partner Ice, a seven-year-old Belgian Malinois. Working together for more than 5 ½ years, Magallon and Ice put their lives at risk every day to serve their community.

On July 21, 2016, they came face to face with danger during a marijuana eradication operation in Trinity County, California. In the process of apprehending a suspect, Ice was stabbed.

“On that day [July 21st], Ice and I were part of a team sent to identify and arrest those suspected of cultivating one of these grows on the Shasta-Trinity National Forests near Wildwood. While entering the cultivation site, our team observed two suspects. Ice was subsequently deployed to apprehend one of them. Ice apprehended the suspect, however, in just the few seconds before I could get to Ice, the suspect used an approximately 5-inch fixed blade knife to stab Ice twice in the chest and at least two more times in the muzzle,” explained Magallon.

Ice during light helicopter duty. Photo credit: Christopher Magallon
Ice during light helicopter duty. Photo credit: Christopher Magallon

Despite being critically injured, Ice remained on the apprehension of the suspect until officers were able to take the suspect into custody. The dog was then transported to a veterinary hospital in Redding, CA, where it was immediately placed into emergency surgery to repair and suture its injuries.

“When I realized Ice had been stabbed, he was bleeding profusely, and though critically injured, he never let out a whine or whimper,” said Magallon. “My immediate focus was on stopping the bleeding as quickly as possible. I carry two trauma kits on me, one for Ice and one for me, and I used the contents of both, as well as the contents of the other team member’s trauma kits, to do my best to bandage Ice. Then, my next thought was figuring how to get Ice evacuated and to the vet. I wasn’t alone, it was a team effort.  As I was bandaging Ice, team members were assisting me in treating Ice, calling for a helicopter, taking a suspect into custody, all while dealing with a dynamic situation. I work in a tight knit group, so because we have worked so closely with one another for so long, we were able to get Ice to the veterinary hospital in time to save his life.”

The suspect currently remains in federal custody pending adjudication of multiple felony counts, including violation of the Federal Law Enforcement Animal Protection Act.

Ice spent several days at the veterinary hospital before being released. The dog is currently being reintegrated into law enforcement activities. “These dogs have such a drive and are so resilient that they always want to work. Work is all they know how to do, and I don’t want Ice to think he’s being disciplined because of the incident, so he’s been coming to work on light duty. He’s pretty much been riding around in the truck, interacting with his friends, and hanging out at the office as I do paperwork. I even took him along during an assignment I had on our Law Enforcement Exclusive Use Helicopter. He got to ride around in the helicopter, hang around at the landing zone, and travel just to remind him he’s still a part of the team,” stated Magallon.

An unbreakable bond

When asked about his bond with Ice, Magallon had heartfelt thoughts to share. “Ice is my partner. We are together both at home and work. Ice has literally saved my life and other officers’ lives multiple times, so to adequately describe the depth of our relationship is difficult. The bond and absolute trust Ice and I share (as well as other handlers and their dogs) is the absolute eminence of that multigenerational development and the culmination of all the past efforts borne by human and dog. When we are working out in the field, Ice is an extension of me, just as I am an extension of him. I rely on his keen senses, and he relies on my ability to protect him. Oftentimes, we find ourselves in positions where our lives depend on one another and that bond and trust is what makes us successful. But at the end of the day, Ice is just a dog.  He plays with toys, gets his belly rubbed, growls and twitches when he dreams, and sneaks up on the couch when I’m not looking,” he explained.

Magallon described Ice as a canine that has a keen ability to be socially interactive with people, which results in having a great connection to humans. “When we are at the office, he likes to go around and greet the other employees. When we are out in public, Ice is approachable and people can meet him and interact, and he quickly becomes the center of attention. Because he is a dog, and humans have such an affinity and connection with dogs, he is able to break through many social barriers by just wagging his tail.  What’s even more amazing is Ice can go from getting his belly rubbed, to seconds later handling an intense situation, and then go right back to getting his head scratched. Not a lot of these dogs can make such an adjustment.

People don’t always know me, but they know Ice and know of his reputation.  So, sometimes, someone will be telling me a story about one of Ice’s accomplishments and not realize I’m his handler.  Although it makes me proud of Ice, I also realize I am pretty much Ice’s chauffer, driving him around from one adventure to the other,” he said.

More than a partnership, Ice and his handler share a deep connection and trust that allows them to be successful in their line of work. Experiencing life-threatening events together only strengthens that bond. They go through it together, and heal from it together. According to Magallon, Ice has a long road to recovery, but both of them are prepared to take on this new challenge.  “There is some rehabilitation that has to be done.  Although his drive is as intense as it’s ever been, his endurance is really low, and because of the injury and his body recuperating, he has lost almost 10 lbs. To have the trust and confidence in Ice to fully do his job, I need to get his endurance back and get his weight up as well.  We may have to do some physical therapy. He’s a tough dog, but the whole process is on him. It would be nice to get Ice back to where we are expected to be. But, I’m not going to pressure him if he can’t do it.  He’s earned that much, and more,” noted Magallon.