Constable Tim Pedersen says that King, one of the two horses in the Waterloo Regional Police Service's mounted patrol unit, has kept him safe on job and he'll miss the horse when the unit is disbanded on April 1.
Pedersen is one of the officers who regularly patrol on horseback, a job that he says fulfills his "childhood dream of being a police officer on a horse, like the old Lone Ranger."
The two-horse unit, that also includes police horse Watson, is being temporarily discontinued on April 1, a move that will save the police force $27,000 a year. The police services board and the police force will make a joint decision on the retirement of the horses later this year.
Pedersen recalled an incident when the unit was on patrol in Kitchener across from Kitchener city hall when they came across a deeply troubled man.
''We found him on Kijiji....and to be honest the boots for the unit cost more than it cost to purchase the horses.'' - Const. Tim Pedersen, on buying police horse Watson
"We encountered a male who was showing some signs of suicidal behaviour and tried to initiate a suicide by cop, what we call screaming at us to shoot him and then tried to instigate a fight by trying to drag me off the horse," said Pedersen.
"He would try and punch me and the horse would end up getting hit instead. And then the male would feel bad, actually feel bad for the horse and you'd hear him in between the screaming say, "sorry" and kiss the horse."
Pedersen says because King was trained to deal with these kinds of situations and was able to diffuse the situation.
"He was able to physically control this person for me, save me from getting hurt, save that male from getting hurt because then I didn't have to escalate in the use of force and all the while the male felt bad for what he was doing because horses just have that effect on people," said Pedersen.
King is "hot-blooded" while Watson is "very tolerant"
Pedersen got involved with the mounted unit project in fall of 2009, and the first horse patrols hit the street in 2010.
"When we started it was a bizarre feeling to have people smile and wave because when you're in a cruiser or in a uniform in general, that's not your general reception," said Pedersen of his initial patrols on horseback.
"To feel warmly received as a police officer is kind of a rare feeling."
The unit's two horses both came from Ontario homes. King came from a home near Erin and is a Percheron-Thoroughbred cross, a mix that Pedersen says makes him "perfect" for police work.
Watson came from a home near London, and he was found with a little help from online listings.
"We found him on Kijiji, and everybody kind of I think assumes that we spent an exorbitant amount of money on the horses, and to be honest the boots for the unit cost more than it cost to purchase the horses," said Pedersen.
Watson is a "natural-born police horse" according to Pedersen.
"The horse naturally is an apprehensive and skeptical creature that deals with everything through that filter and this horse is much less likely to do that," he said.
"This horse is pretty tolerant of things, almost a little bit, well a lot a bit pushy, more willing to stand up and defend himself."
King, on the other had is more sensitive, and a lot more "hot-blooded," according to Pedersen.
"His kind of strength was that he's very, very obedient, through his sensitivity. He will do what he's told and try real hard. A horse like Watson, who's like I say, very very tolerant, it's harder to motivate him to do anything because he really isn't concerned about too much."
Pedersen says he'll miss the horses when the unit is disbanded, and King in particular.
"I've spent more time with this horse for four years than I did my own family, really," he said.