Fearless Companion

Ferris graduate and canine officer talks about canine partner and companion

by Published: Mar 21, 2012

Loyal Partners: Robert Fortney and Dasty at Detroit Metro Airport with Airforce One on the run­way dur­ing Obama’s recent visit to Ann Arbor, MIch. Photo Courtesy of Robert Fortney

“There’s no bet­ter job in the world than work­ing a police canine.”

Robert Fortney, a canine police offi­cer from the Wayne County Airport, is speak­ing about Dasty, his canine com­pan­ion and for­mer work partner.

Dasty is a for­mer TSA employee. Born Oct. 1, 2003 in the Netherlands, Dasty is a Belgian Shepherd/Malinois. Recently, Dasty was diag­nosed with can­cer in her lymph nodes and has since retired as a TSA employee.

“She’s still alive, she’s doing well. The can­cer is still there, but it has sub­sided,” Fortney said in a recent update on Dasty. He said she is at home as a pet of his.

The Torch received the oppor­tu­nity to inter­view Fortney in February when he was tak­ing Dasty on a tour through­out Michigan. One of his stops was Ferris State University, where he was once a stu­dent. Fortney had Dasty demon­strate some of her “cat-like” reflexes in the Torch office.

Fortney grad­u­ated in 1987 with a major in busi­ness. He was also on the var­sity swim team for four years. Fortney said he worked for a busi­ness bureau, but felt like some­thing was miss­ing from his life.

He decided to join the National Guard. After find­ing out about an open­ing for a reserve offi­cer in Farmington, he applied and became a full-time police officer.

“Even when I was at Ferris, I wanted to be a police offi­cer,” Fortney said.

In 2007, he was intro­duced to Dasty. There was an open­ing for a canine police offi­cer posi­tion. He took the job. Fortney has had her for five years now.

“Being a police offi­cer is one thing, but I really wanted to be a canine police offi­cer. To me, that’s the ulti­mate. I’d pass up pro­mo­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties to stay with the canine,” Fortney said.

Dasty was trained in Germany and takes com­mands in German. While at work, she would walk around the air­port, sniff­ing unat­tended bags, vehi­cles and cargo. She got to work a Presidential detail when President Barack Obama spoke in Ann Arbor ear­lier this year.

During her time as an employee, Fortney said they trained every day to fight ter­ror­ism. Dasty’s main job was to pre­vent a tragedy.

“You can’t just walk into it. You’ve got some dues to pay and prove you’re a good patrol offi­cer. Do it of the love of the dog, not for the inci­den­tal ben­e­fits,” Fortney said.

“All her life, she’s been at an opti­mal level of fit­ness. These dogs are Olympic ath­letes,” Fortney said.

Fortney described Dasty as “awe­some, relent­less and focused.” He said it was amaz­ing to watch Dasty do her job.

“I’ve always appre­ci­ated dogs. We’ve had Belgians for over 20 years in our house,” Fortney said.

Fortney and Dasty worked the day shift. She was avail­able for any canine calls in the Metro Detroit Airport, includ­ing unat­tended bags and sus­pi­cious vehi­cles. Fortney said it wasn’t work for Dasty, but a game to her.

“We were doing President Obama’s motor­cade a cou­ple of years ago,” Fortney said. Dasty has com­pleted tasks such as search­ing 25–30 cars. She once searched an SUV occu­pied by Michigan’s first female gov­er­nor. Fortney said she hopped in and for­mer Governor Jennifer Granholm was sit­ting in the vehicle.

Fortney and Dasty have met some famous indi­vid­u­als while on the job. Some of those indi­vid­u­als include Robert Delano from Stone Temple Pilots, Gene Simmons from KISS and Jason Reichman, the direc­tor of movies such as “Juno” and “Up In the Air” – the movies were being filmed at the time. He has also met Barry Sanders, the for­mer run­ning back for the Detroit Lions.

Now, Dasty is spend­ing her days at Fortney’s home with his family.

“I’ve been lucky to have her, and I’m not ashamed to say it – she’s been lucky to have me. We’re a great team,” Fortney said.