Public service comes in different forms, usually on two legs. Sometimes, on four.
Meet Uno, a 95-pound German shepherd and K-9 with the City of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Uno is much more than a dog or a pet to Marie Cetti, a Bridgeport police officer and K-9 handler. He is like her child, work partner and protector in one.
“I’ve had other pets before, but it’s different when you know he’s your partner,” says Cetti, a member of AFSCME Local 1159 (Council 4). “He’s there to protect me. He’s the one who’s supposed to take a bullet before I do. That’s hard to fathom. I think only police handlers can understand that level of companionship.”
Cetti is the first woman to become a K-9 police officer in Bridgeport, a city of nearly 150,000 residents and the largest in the state. For her service to the public and never quit attitude, she is also a winner of AFSCME’s Never Quit Service Award.
For Cetti and Uno, going above and beyond the call of duty is almost part of the job description. When they’re not on duty, they’re out somewhere training.
“He’s only as good as I make him to be,” Cetti says of Uno. “I constantly train with him and do things to make him better at his job. It’s nonstop. Sometimes we practice narcotics work or we do a building search with another K-9 officer that I train with. That’s the only way he’s going to get better. And he doesn’t realize this, but he pushes me, too.”
Uno is what’s called a “dual-purpose K-9,” which means he’s trained for both patrol and narcotics detection. Cetti has been a police officer for eight years, the last 3½ as a K-9 handler.
“My father is a deputy sheriff in Massachusetts, and that has a lot to do with it,” Cetti said when asked why she had chosen law enforcement. “I’ve always liked the idea of helping people. You feel good when you help other people. But it’s also because I’m not one to sit behind a desk.”
Cetti and Uno don’t do a lot of sitting. On a typical day, they’re out patrolling the streets and keeping the public safe. And when Cetti takes a break and drives out of town to visit family, Uno comes along. He’s always by her side.
“I don’t have children, but it’s like having a kid,” she says. “It’s like having a 2-year-old kid in his terrible twos, I think, with him.”
She adds, “He’s my best friend. He’s my partner. I’m grateful.”
Do you know a co-worker who goes above and beyond the call of duty?
Nominate them for our union’s Never Quit Service Award.