MASONTOWN, Pa. - Isaac Donaldson stood at the ready, eyes on the “bad guy” hiding in the woods at Masontown German Park Wednesday afternoon.
As the 7-year-old from White and Masontown Officer and K-9 handler Mike Yeager watched, the decoy criminal, constable Robert Smith, peeked out from the trees.
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“Police K-9! Stop or we will send the dog,” Isaac and Yeager shouted.
Isaac then pushed the device Yeager carries to pop open the K-9 Unit, and 88 pounds of muscle — a German shepherd named Brony — bounded from the vehicle.
As Brony grabbed Smith, who wore protective gear, Yeager issued another command and put the dog back on his leash.
Isaac, a boy with serious health problems who wants to become a police officer, was able to spend a shift as a K-9 handler on Wednesday.
He was diagnosed with Arnold Chiari Brain Malformation, a birth defect, several years ago, his mother, Katina Donaldson, said.
He had brain surgery two years ago and suffers from migraines and muscle soreness and tires easily. He had strep throat 13 times two winters ago, Donaldson said.
Because of his numerous medical appointments, Isaac is enrolled in cyber school. Donaldson, a single mother, helps him with his studies.
While she was at the Fayette County Courthouse recently to pay their taxes, Isaac was enthralled by the security staff, Donaldson said.
“He's always wanted to be a police officer. That's all he ever talks about. Sometimes when we are out driving he will say, ‘Mom, that person just ran a red light. We should get his license plate and call the police,'” she said.
“He always wants to shake (law enforcement officers') hands and say thank you,” Donaldson said.
A security officer suggested the family stop by the office of Sheriff Gary Brownfield. Masontown Mayor Toni Petrus, who works in the office, gave Isaac a photo of Yeager and Brony.
“He sleeps with it. He said, ‘Mom, I can't stop staring at it,'” Donaldson said.
Petrus pitched the idea of making Isaac a K-9 handler for a day to Yeager, and he agreed to help make it happen.
Earlier Wednesday, Yeager gave Isaac, his mother, and grandmother, Robin Donaldson, a tour of the Masontown police station.
“Why do you want to be a police officer?” he asked the curly-haired boy.
“To arrest people who are being bad,” Isaac said softly.
Yeager presented him with a Junior K-9 officer T-shirt and wrapped a miniature leash around his waist.
“Now you are a K-9 officer,” Yeager told him.
At the police station, Yeager helped Isaac into his K-9 unit for the ride to the park.
Brony lives with Yeager and his family. The two have been partnered since 2010.
“He is trained to be aggressive. He can be friendly, but he can change in an instant. This is a controlled situation,” Yeager said.
Donaldson said her son has two German shepherd mix puppies, Buddy and Zeus.
He has a compassionate heart, she said, holding doors open for others and collecting gifts for Operation Christmas Child.
“He loves to ride his bike and play with his dogs,” his mother said.
Yeager showed Isaac how to approach Brony and let him pet the dog, and taught the boy several commands.
Before leaving the park, Isaac climbed back into the police car and told Brony goodbye.
Yeager wrapped the little boy in a bear hug.
“He will talk about this for the rest of his life. Thank you. You made his world,” Robin Donaldson said.
Isaac was shy when asked how he liked his temporary job, but shared his excitement with his mother as she walked him to their car.
“He said, ‘Mom, this is the best day ever,'” Katina Donaldson said.
Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or firstname.lastname@example.org.