by Xinhua writers Zhang Wuyue and Zhang Xudong
QINGDAO, March 3 (Xinhua) -- Carl the police dog is 12 years old, or nearly 80 in human years, and has finished his last mission as a guard during Chunyun, the Spring Festival travel rush, which ended this week.
As a police dog, he is entitled to an honorable retirement.
Carl is a male springer spaniel approaching the end of his life. The 2019 Chunyun security mission was his final performance as a member of the Qingdao railway police dog team.
"I wonder what a sniffer dog is capable of at such an age, besides getting his pension and living a quiet life," said Zhang Dong, a young trainer who graduated from college last year.
However, Carl taught the arrogant young man a lesson on the first day while searching the square, exits and trains in an amazingly calm and orderly manner, while Zhang got lost among the huge crowds.
Thanks to Carl, Zhang completed his mission that day and eliminated potential explosive dangers. "It was Carl who carried me to continue the work all day. I overcame my timidity, and Carl was my true mentor," Zhang said.
Lasting for 40 days and containing nearly 3 billion trips, Chunyun has always been an challenge for China's public transportation system.
Carl was on duty for 30 days, having done his part to maintain order and safety at Qingdao Railway Station, which handled 789,000 trips during the period.
In 2008, Wang Zhijun, captain of the Qingdao railway police dog team, picked Carl out from a peasant family, in cooperation with Nanjing Police Dog Research Institute.
"Carl had the most concentration among all the puppies, which indicated his potential to be an outstanding police dog," Wang said.
Carl did not fall below Wang Zhijun's expectations. After an intensive training project for three months, Carl revealed more abilities other than concentration, such as high excitement levels and strong possessiveness, which made him a more qualified explosive-sniffer police dog.
Since his first mission for the 2008 Qingdao Olympic Sailing Regatta, Carl has taken part in more than 70 important tasks, including the APEC, G20 and SCO summits, without making a single mistake.
"Carl has the style of a general," said Wang Qichen, another trainer at the police dog team. Unlike many of his fellow friends, Carl was always calm and thorough while working. All his trainers were impressed.
However, Carl's hind legs were injured during a training in 2005 and his legs were never able to recover despite treatment.
"We've tried to release him from too much work, but when it comes to important events, he is always the first option. He is so excellent that we just can't go without him," Wang Zhijun said.
During Carl's last mission, he could not jump or walk upstairs. As long as he needed to examine luggage on high places, Zhang Dong would have to lift him to appropriate locations.
"It breaks my heart to see Carl this way. But he is clever enough to discover our difficulties. He kept working so as not to affect our work progress. All I can do is to give his legs a massage during breaks," Zhang said.
China has 2,350 registered railway police dogs that undertake missions like tracing, drug and explosive detecting.
"Police dogs still have a vital place, as many threats such as micro explosives and drugs wrapped twice in plastic bags cannot be detected by devices," said Wang Qichen. "In many conditions, human beings still have to rely on their help."
The police dog team is short-handed in manpower. It is a tradition to find kind-hearted families to take care of retired dogs. But Carl's adoption was often delayed.
"We are all aware that Carl will be taken better care of when he comes to another family, but we can't make up our minds to do that," said Wang Zhijun, who has trained Carl for 11 years.