Former Clovis Police officer and K9 handler Dustin Dodd never thought he’d be a published author.
But some of the “stranger than fiction” occurrences and “bizarre calls for service” he encountered during his 14 years with the department were too interesting to keep to himself, he said.
“It was things that I thought ‘I’d like to tell my kids about this one day’ and ‘No one’s ever going to believe this,’ ” Dodd said.
He began to write one- to two-sentence reminders in his notebook. But years later when he reviewed his notes, it was hard to remember the details of what had happened.
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So, Dodd began to write out the stories as memoirs of just a few paragraphs up to a couple of pages.
It wasn’t until he was bored on a plane ride back from bomb squad training in Alabama that he decided to compile the memoirs into one big story.
“I decided to make it all fiction, inspired by true events, because these occurred in different areas of Clovis and Fresno County over the course of three or four years,” Dodd said.
The story follows officer Daniel Deacon and his K9 partner, Justice, on an undercover drug sting that goes south.
Dodd said he changed all of the names of fellow officers and twisted the stories enough that it’s unlikely anyone would guess which true events inspired his fictional story.
“Savage Justice” was published by Black Opal Books and released in February. It is available online through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and signed copies via Dodd’s website at www.savagejustice.com. The novel is slated to be featured in the International Thriller Writers publication, The Big Thrill, in April.
This is a huge 180 for Dodd, who said writing was not his forte.
“In high school I was into hard science,” he said. “Physics, chemistry … I was all about numbers. I didn’t want anything to do with writing.”
But in college he had to write more, and as a police officer he has to write several pages of reports at the end of each shift.
“All of a sudden I got this desire to write a novel,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a whole new world I didn’t know anything about. It’s been a lot of fun and I’m glad I did it.”
Dodd attended Gettysburg Elementary, Clark Intermediate and Clovis High schools. He graduated from Clovis High in 1997 and went on to Fresno State. He aspired to be a pre-med student with hopes of becoming a pharmacist like his father.
“But I kept drifting back toward law enforcement,” he said. “Turns out I come from a family of cops. My dad’s parents and grandparents were in law enforcement in... Oklahoma and LA County.”
After college — Dodd earned a B.A. in criminology and a B.S. in psychology from Fresno State — he went into the police academy and was sworn in to the Clovis Police Department on Nov. 16, 2001.
After serving for about four years, Dodd was selected to become a K9 handler.
Kota, a German Shepherd who was rescued from a shelter in Santa Rosa, became his partner.
“It was easily the best assignment I ever had in my career,” he said. “If you’re having a bad day, there’s something therapeutic about reaching through a grate and scratching a furry head.”
The pair served for nearly four years together, Dodd said.
“He’s like a brother and he’s like a son,” Dodd said about Kota. “I loved him to death. He did the work of 10 guys … You can’t outrun him, he’s got twice as many legs. In situations where two or three officers wouldn’t get the time of day, you bring one dog out and you get immediate compliance.”
Dodd had to put Kota down in September due to old age. The dog was about 13 years old, but was healthy for about seven years after retiring.
“That was good, because most go down a year after retirement,” Dodd said. “K9s have all of the adrenaline coursing through them for so long. It wears them out.”
Dodd now serves as a police officer in Napa, where he moved with his wife of 10 years, Jenny, and his sons Ian, 7, and Nolan, 3.
Dodd’s bond with Kota — now immortalized in his book — makes him uncertain that he’ll become a K9 handler again in his new department.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever have the heart to do it again,” Dodd said. “Putting him down was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. It’s just too fresh.”