Jeff Wagner had been on the job in Milwaukee for thirty years, the son and brother of cops. He retired with one broken marriage, two purebred German Shepherd rescues (Raylan and Boyd), three rock-solid grown daughters, four grandkids, one impeccable reputation as a hard ass with integrity, and 24 functioning firearms.
Tired of brutal Wisconsin winters, he headed south, where he applied for and accepted the position of the Chief of Police of Kermit, Texas.
Kermit was and is an aging oil boomtown in the Permian Basin, surrounded by a semi-arid wasteland populated by countless pump jacks, which resemble hungry visitors from another planet, particularly in moonlight.
Jeff liked the town, and he liked the people. He wanted to make a difference in people’s lives but without the burden of battling Milwaukee’s relentless urban poverty and crime, although Texas and nearby New Mexico had their own ways of making life interesting for law enforcement.
As a bonus, no one told him that Texas had a sizable German-American population and that chicken-fried steak actually was the same wiener schnitzel that he grew up on in Milwaukee.
He bought a house with a big backyard for a fraction of what it would have cost him in Milwaukee. He could bank his pension from Wisconsin for retirement, and he could feel the Texas sun burn the memory of the bitter Midwestern cold from his bones.
Raylan and Boyd were purebred littermates, huge German Shepherds dumped at the local animal shelter in Milwaukee County for behavioral problems, which meant that they were bored, in Jeff’s opinion. He had a long, one-sided talk with them the day he pulled them from their shared cage and took them for an endless walk along Lake Michigan’s blustery shoreline.
Here’s the deal, he told them. You might be smarter, but I have car keys, opposable thumbs, and credit cards, and I know how to use a can opener.
The three were best friends from then on. When he was put on a desk towards the end of his time in Milwaukee, he brought them to work. In his spare time, he trained them, which he claimed involved the three of them watching agility competitions on the Animal Planet network.
Some dogs are motivated by food; others are prey-driven, which means they love their toys. These boys loved people and just wanted to have fun. Smart and goofy. Total sweethearts; too nice for police work and not compulsive enough for rescue or tracking. A bit too high energy for therapy dogs. But they adored children and cheerfully would tolerate abuse from toddlers, puppies, kittens, and ducklings.
Jeff also was smart, and, if you squinted, you could see his goofy side as well.