'It was our time,' Three women make history as first female OPP K9 handlers

Three women are making history as the first female K9 handlers in the OPP.

"This is something I've always wanted to do," said provincial constable Melissa Pirie. "I just think it was our time to make it happen."

Growing up, Pirie knew she wanted to be a police officer, but making history, wasn't something that crossed her mind.

"Being active and having an exciting job is probably the part I wanted most," she said.

Earlier this month, she and two other women marked a historic milestone after completing 18 weeks of training to become a K9 handler.

"A lot of us have tried for years," said Pirie. "I've (tried) years prior to getting to this, and if you want it, keep striving for it."

During her 15 year career with the OPP, Pirie says it's taken hard work and dedication to pursue her dream.

Now that she has graduated, she will be working out of the Bracebridge detachment alongside her two-year-old K9 partner Tytan.

Sarah Hendrick and her two-year-old K9 partner Janus are also recent graduates.

"My dog is a bit of a suck, so he loves the attention," Hendrick said. "Right from day one or day two, we created a bond, and it's increased ever since."

It's a bond not bound by gender but strengthened through the love of the job and sniffing out crime.

"I like to think that I'm a handler first, and my gender obviously comes second," Hendrick said. "I'm proud to be here, but I'm just as proud as I think any of the other males are that I trained alongside with."

Both handlers said they look forward to making an impact and supporting the frontline.

"Whether that is apprehending a criminal or to help with a missing person in the community, we are there to help them," Hendrick said.

Hendrick has already started working out of the Nottawasaga detachment.

In the new year, both Hendrick and Pirie say they will start training in firearm and drug detection, paving the way for the next generation.