As the holidays quickly approach, it easy to get lost in the rush of “doing”.  We rush all around town making sure we have everything for dinner, and still stress that we forgot something. We worry that some of our family won’t make it to dinner and then maybe stress that some of them will. We plan and plan for the perfect holiday and in doing so we are too exhausted to enjoy it.

What is “Thanks-Giving”?  To me it is simple…Giving Thanks.  I am thankful for life, for my family (including the four-legged members), and for my friends.  As my family members in uniform and I know well, tomorrow is not guaranteed.  Some of us leaving for work tonight will not return. So I am indeed thankful for our military, our firefighters, our LEO’s and K9s, our dispatchers, our nurses and doctors.

I am thankful for my K9 partner who stands beside me at all times.  I am in awe of his look-out on life and strive to have even half of his good humor.  Each romp in the yard is with joy and enthusiasm as if he has just seen it for the first time.  Each day we leave for work, he bounds out to my patrol unit as if it is his first day, never thinking it may be his last. He is awe-inspiring, confident, and fierce at work, yet at home gentle with the smallest stray kitten we rescued.

I am thankful for three more years and counting of retired K9 Turk, my former partner.  His auto-immune disease leaves him slower and weaker, but his heart and soul keep the disease at bay and in the background. His capacity to love is immense and his devotion to me is unbeatable. His regal presence calms me and assures me that no matter what he will always be with me.

I am thankful for K9 Lucy, my single purpose explosives dog, who is a Border collie. K9 Lucy takes her job seriously and is quite bossy to the other dogs but melts at the sight of a child. She works quietly, diligently, and meticulously but at play she is exuberant and chases K9 Dagger with reckless abandon. She races around him until he is dizzy then tackles him into the grass, biting his ears and feet until he can escape. She reminds me that life is made up of irreplaceable moments.

I am thankful for the little girl and her mother who made doggy cookies for my whole K9 unit last year. She asked her mom to help her make them for the nice dogs and policemen who keep her safe.  According to her mom, she shaped and frosted each batch herself so the K9s would have something special on their Thanksgiving Day and only let her mom frost ours. She then delivered them to our station with her mom and her prize was a hug from K9 Lucy, who lovingly delivered.

I am thankful for the unknown man in the Starbuck’s line ahead of a patrol unit who bought that officer’s coffee, an unexpected gesture that shows love, appreciation and hope for a brighter future.  I am awed when I hear these stories and filled with gratitude that our job is not always thankless.

I am thankful for my LEO family worldwide. I know that in crisis, my brothers and sisters in uniform, on or off duty, would move heaven and earth to get me and each other home safe, as I would for them. My brother is a Deputy Sheriff for a bordering county and I am thankful for him, for his service, and that his life was spared during a volatile SWAT entry where a bullet sent to take his life deflected off his radio and vest. I am thankful for the Pasco County branch of our family for getting him home safe and having his back when I can’t.

I am thankful for our military branches who fight the international fight on our behalf and for their families who go without their presence so that we remain free.  Each branch, be it Air Force, Marines, Army, Navy, the Coast Guard or National Guard sacrifice their family time and sometimes their lives, especially in a time of crisis for the safety of our Country and its people. I am humbled by their commitment.

I am thankful for my daughters, son and grandsons who make my life worthwhile and my job that much more important.  My mother and father, sister and brothers, who helped shape the person I am. The friends that laugh and cry with me or call me out as needed. I am reminded daily that love and gratitude should be expressed not hidden. As my favorite James Dean quote reads “Dream as if you will live forever, but live as if you will die today”.

So as “Thanks-Giving” comes to pass, what will you give thanks too?

Master Deputy Charlotte Raschke has worked in law enforcement since 1988.  She started her career in Detention Services and worked all phases of patrol, street crimes, crime prevention, property detective and the K9 unit. She has been in K9 for 13 years as a handler, working three patrol utility/narcotic dogs and a single purpose EOD dog. Master Deputy Raschke is currently a K9 trainer for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Tampa, FL.  She was twice awarded the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, the Deputy of the Quarter, and four lifesaving awards.  She is an adjunct Instructor for St. Petersburg College’s Multi-Jurisdictional Counter Drug Task Force.  Master Deputy Raschke serves as Law Enforcement Today’s K-9 expert.