Interviewed on 1 October 2021
Garda Catherine Bartley joined An Garda Síochána in 1987 and retired in 2019, having worked in various sections of the force, latterly the Dog Unit, where she spent many years and became well known for her work with the Garda dogs. Catherine was interviewed for the project on 1st October 2021. In this piece of audio, Catherine reflects on her lifelong love of dogs.
JOHN O’BRIEN (INTERVIEWER): But also one very important thing that you said to me is that one of your earliest memories as a kid, practically in the pram, was of a dog. You always had this affinity with animals, which is another reason that you were going to the Dog Unit, isn’t that right?
MS. BARTLEY: Yeah, I’ve like when we were small we lived in Jacob’s Yard in Bishop Street, and we had, ehm, a couple of German Shepherds, one of them was called Con, and that’s the youngest the memory one of the earliest memories I have is of Con looking into the pram at me and, ehm, he was a German Shepherd, and I’ve always had the funny thing is dogs seem to be associated with things that happen in my life, and I sort of look back now on my career and I actually look at it in stages of dogs. Because when my Dad died I was 7, and I was down in Cork and, ehm, there was a dog thrown out of a car on Dunmanway I think it was. Yeah. And, ehm, my uncle heard about it and they gave me this little dog, and it came back on the train from Cork with his little head sticking out of the … Back from Cork to Dublin, and I was that’s my Dad died in February and that was in August and, ehm, so he was with me for fourteen years.
MR. O’BRIEN: Now maybe just again for people who don’t know, in terms of police work, dogs have a particular a range of detection skills, if I can use that. Just talk to us a little bit about the different skills that the dogs have in terms of their searching capacity, you know. We’re all associating them with drugs, but maybe just tell us a little bit about the range of things a dog, a properly trained dog can do?
MS. BARTLEY: Well, the German Shepherds, and they’re using Belgian Malinois now as well, they’re the general-purpose patrol dogs, and people don’t think they’re sniffer dogs, but in actual fact they’re sniffer dogs for human scent. So they can air scent if there’s a person missing, or track people, which is something I really got into, and, ehm, they can search for objects contaminated by human scent, and they also do, ehm, man work, where you can send them after somebody and they’ll grab somebody and hold on to them, or you can send them into a building looking for somebody and they’ll, ehm, they’ll find somebody. They’ll go on the strongest human scent. You see there’s three different types of scenting. There’s air scenting, which is what most of the patrol dogs would do sorry, all of the patrol dogs would do, and then there’s scent discrimination, which is sort of a typical thing. Most people think that, you know, like a blood hound, you’d give him the jumper and he’d go off looking for that smell.
MS. BARTLEY: That’s scent discrimination. And then there’s a thing called scent identification, which is where you can take the scent from a crime scene and contain it, and then if you have a suspect, there’s a controlled environment and you can run the dog over you have to do a blank scent first, and then you have the scent from the crime scene and the scent from the suspect, and if the dog indicates the scent from the crime scene, after getting the scent from the suspect…
MR. O’BRIEN: The connection is made.