Photo by Redd on Unsplash

Today upon waking up at around 4:45 AM and being served our regular Tuesday breakfast of oatmeal, bread and butter with jelly, shredded potatoes, and a turkey sausage patty, we were made aware that highly trained and experienced police dogs were systematically searching though B1, one of the other three neighboring quads in B-dorm. An officer came into our dorm and started shutting the doors to our cells, thereby locking us in the dayroom. 

When I saw this, I was mid-bite into my patty and I immediately grabbed my bread, already pre-spread with the accoutrements that went with it, and headed inside the relative safety of my cell with my bunky, knowing that if I didn’t make it in there before the officer shut my door I’d be stuck in the dayroom with approximately 90 mouth-breathers awaiting the inevitable shakedown that was soon to come. At least I could lie in the semi-comfort of my bunk until they were finished searching B1 through B3. 

It was a good thing I anticipated the guards’ motives for locking our doors, because the shakedown did not commence until over an hour later, starting with five camo-clad officers, all bigger than your average steroid-addled body-builder, accompanied by the tic-tic-tic of dog’s nails padding back and forth in front of our door. 

Ours was the last door popped. One of the two officers not in possession of a K9 opened our door and asked very politely, “Good morning! Would you care to join us outside? And please be good enough to quietly have a seat in the dayroom.” 

When we were seated, he continued.

“Good morning, gentlemen,” he said, identifying himself (I’m calling him “Funny Guy,” or Officer F.G.). “We will be conducting a search of your dorm, yourselves, and your personal property. We do this statewide. We are very good at our jobs. Our dogs are especially good at their jobs. We love nothing more than to come into a penitentiary like Graceville and possibly fuck your shit up. God sent us.”

Wait a minute. Did he say that God sent them? 

“To prevent us from doing that and thereby making it rain in here using your personal property, it is probably a good idea to go ahead and go into your little hidey-holes or take a second to reach into your own butt and pull out whatever it is you may think you can hide from us,” Officer F.G. continued. “Should you decide to play with us, we would like you to know that our dogs have never lost at this game. They have a 100% clearance record, and if you would like to know the truth, I personally hope you decide to retain your contraband, because, frankly, our dogs are bored.” 

The dorm lay silent. “Groovy, let’s play,” he went on. “Here is how you don’t get chewed on, either by myself or my other officers; the dogs are of no concern, but believe me when I tell you that I am. Listen to what we tell you to do. Do not, I repeat, do not make any sudden movements. If my dogs come up to you, they will not bite you. That is not what they are here for. They hate the taste of shit in their mouths.” 

At that I laughed out loud because it was such a smart ass, pithy thing to say, plus I could see the smirk on the officer’s face, which told me that Funny Guy loved his job, was quick-witted, and was most likely a hoot to hang out with on the street.

“We are going to start in your rooms. This is going to take some time because we like to read your letters to the dogs,” he said. “Your pictures will also be shown to them. When we are done, the dogs will then go back to headquarters, where they will vote on who has the prettiest girlfriend through a system of barks. The winner will be notified with a five dollar deposit on their canteen account.” 

Dudes were confused as shit, not realizing that this guy was fucking with them. I was cracking up, which only seemed to instigate Officer F.G. For me, it was the best shakedown ever. 

“After we have searched your rooms, let our dogs lick your toothbrushes, and when we’ve finished copying all your girlfriends’ phone numbers and addresses, we will then have you stand by your doors facing the wall with your hands behind your back like you’re being cuffed up, because, let’s face it, some of you will be momentarily…  while our dogs do a routine smell search to see 1) who wipes their own ass properly and 2) who has the goods,” Officer F.G. told us. 

He made the last statement while diabolically rubbing his hands together like a kid who just won the best toy out of the claw machine at Walmart. 

While all this was going on, one of the K9 officers was ramping up his German Shepherd with a Kong toy. What freaked everyone out was when the officer tried to resume the work at hand and the shepherd would not release the toy, instead growling like a demon and yanking harder. The officer had to insert a hard rubber pry bar into the back of the dog’s mouth to retrieve the toy. 

“Sorry ‘bout that,” he said. “He has a little trouble with the release part when he decides to lock on to someone; shit, I mean, something.” 

Meanwhile, another officer went table to table, knocking the bottoms out of any salt and pepper shakers that were out and pouring the contents onto the table, or into anyone’s coffee that happened to be on the table as well. 

“And Bingo was his name-O!” the officer yelled when he found some packets of spice, or “toochi” (the fake weed that’s killing people because it’s little more than bug spray sprayed with oregano). 

As two of the K9s were busy sniffing butts and finding contraband hidden in false pockets sewn into the elastic of boxer shorts or hidden compartments in sneakers, one of the other dogs dropped a massive coil right in the middle of the dayroom.

After all was said and done, the dogs found three big bombs of spice, some ice, and three cell phones. Only a few inmates were put into the box because most of the stuff was found in the common areas shared by everyone, and most likely because the box was pushing maximum capacity. Thankfully, they decided not to go the usual route of corporal punishment. 

They moved 38 suspects in one afternoon to other dorms on the compound, trying to bust up any activity that might have been going on. Pretty smart — or so I thought, until I went out to rec after dinner and spoke with an associate of mine, one of the guys who was swept up in the move. 

“So, what do you think was their motivation for doing such a large lateral move like that?” I asked.

“Well, Primo, I’ll tell you,” he said, telling me that they missed “the real players.” He said business would be back to usual soon.

And the beat goes on. The ones who deal in drugs and cell phones get off on risk as much as the actual selling or use of the product. In the chain gang, some things will never change. At least it’s a guarantee that one day, probably sooner than later, I’ll get to see those amazing dogs do what they like to do: please their humans.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

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Calen "Wolf" Whidden

Calen "Wolf" Whidden is a writer incarcerated in Florida.