FAIRFIELD — His full name was Tasso vom Seehiemer Wald, and he saved Fairfield Police Detective Mike Poppe’s life.
Poppe had responded to a call involving a teenager who punched two family members and then took on Poppe, gouging both of the officer’s eyes. Poppe, his eyes bleeding and battling the teen – who played high school football – was able to electronically open the police car, where the German shepherd Tasso waited.
The K-9 had a missile lock on the suspect. Tasso bolted toward the teen and knocked him off Poppe, the detective recalled.
“That dog would have died for me in a second,” Poppe said.
That wasn’t the only time.
A suspect in a separate incident was hiding in a shed attached to an apartment and the man, suspected in a burglary, told Poppe the police dog didn’t worry him. Send the dog in, the suspect dared. Tasso pulled the man out of the shed.
Tasso, whose full name includes his breeder and the German town where he was born, retired in 2008 after seven years of service. He died in September at 14.
“It’s always sad to lose a pet,” said Sgt. Kevin Carella. “But when it is a working police dog who has worked beside you every single day, it hits you a little harder.”
Poppe and Tasso spent 12 hours a day working together. At every stoplight, the dog would lean his head over Poppe’s shoulder, the detective recalled.
“He was very, very friendly,” he said.
About 650 students petted the German shepherd during a visit to a school.
Tasso, whose commands were in German, would immediately respond whenever someone spoke to him in that language.
“He loved it,” Poppe said.
But when it was time for law enforcement, Tasso was all business.
“He could flip the switch,” Poppe said.
The dog’s years of service included a surprise or two. When Tasso, who was trained to detect drugs, went to a UPS store in Fairfield to check on some packages suspected of containing drugs, he alerted officers to a container and a search warrant followed.
Inside the package were six frozen burritos – with no drugs inside them. It was a rare miscue for the animal who spurred scores of “give-ups” by suspects who declined to mix it up with the German shepherd.
Tasso took to retirement and enjoyed his time with the two Labrador retrievers Poppe raised.
“They were tight as ticks,” he said.
Fourteen years is a little longer than many German shepherd police dogs live, said Poppe, who said Tasso’s seven years of work and the retirement that followed added up to a long, good run.
“That dog lived a good life,” the detective said.
People interested in contributing toward the Fairfield Police K-9 Unit should call Carella at 428-7300.
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or [email protected]