“Get off my dog, bro!” You may have heard those words earlier this year, after Deputy Nick Carmack multitasked his way through the simultaneous pursuit of two car thieves—including one who was dragging K-9 Shep as he tried to run away. The Live PD regular and Shep, from the Pasco County (Florida) Sheriff’s Department, recently made their debut in-studio hosting appearance.
With Shep waiting by his side, Carmack spoke with A&E Real Crime about life with his K-9, who he describes as “wound for sound” [fairly hyper] both on and off the job.
How did you and Shep come together?
Our head trainer picks your dog out to [suit] your personality. He picked Shep out for me, dropped him off at my house and told me, ‘Good luck.’
How long ago was that?
We’re coming up on working [together] for five years.
What do you think he was looking for when he picked him out for you?
Probably a calmer [type of] dog—but not too calm! This guy’s wound for sound. [They found me] a level-headed dog. Sometimes the more stubborn dogs get more experienced handlers…someone who has [already had a] dog. When they get the dogs that look a little easier to be trained, they give them to a green handler [like me].
How did he get the name Shep?
The lady who purchased Shep (people who donate over a certain amount of money to the Pasco Sheriff Charities, which helps fund the K-9 unit, get to name the dogs) had a late husband named Shepherd. Shep was the first dog she bought for the sheriff’s office, and now she’s bought eight dogs. I go every Christmas and see her, and sometimes during the year.
A lot of people saw you and Shep in that heart-pounding situation a few months ago with the car thieves. How common is it that you have to send Shep off by himself?
People [thought that was] a crazy thing, but it’s not. We train like that a lot through the sheriff’s office. Our head trainer, Johnny, will do situational training where we’ll do mock pursuits and building searches. [Sometimes there’s] a guy driving a car in front of us with a [padded, protective] bite suit on. He’ll take off running, and we’ll go into buildings. The dog will attack one guy that he finds, and the other guy will attack me. I have to call the dog off of that guy to come help me. We train our dog to be able to get out of the car and chase the [suspect] by himself.
Do people ever recognize you or Shep when you’re not together?
Yes, all the time. In our county, I get recognized getting groceries.
Does Shep come to work with you every day?
Every day. If I go to work, he goes to work. He’s with me 24/7.
What’s the best thing about his personality?
He is just wound for sound all the time. It will be two in the morning and he wakes me up to play with his toys.
How is at-home Shep different from at-work Shep?
When he’s at home, he’s just a dog in the house. He’s running around the house playing, relaxed on his bed, chewing on his toys. When we’re at work, it’s almost like he changes. He’s a totally different animal. He’s ready to go—he knows [when] the lights come on in the truck or the siren comes on, it’s a totally different ballgame.
What’s been something people have learned from Shep being on the show?
People understand the dogs are just dogs. They’re not killing machines.
[Before], a lot of people thought when the dog bites somebody, that it rips them wide open and they’re torn to shreds, but that truly only happens every once and a while—that the dogs hold on long enough to do that. Most of the time they’re only on for a couple seconds and the guy’s got a couple of puncture holes.