Love unleashed: Canine connection leads local police officers to the altar

Above Photo Courtesy of Lindsay Ognoskie
Los Altos Police Officer Julie Tannock and Palo Alto Police Sgt. Duane Tannock deployed their K-9 partners Lucas and Lord, above, to Shoup Park to pose for their Save the Date card. The couple, who met through their dogs, formally wed last month.

It was nearly love at first bark for Los Altos Police Officer Julie Tannock.

Julie’s leading male, Lord – a 7-year-old black German shepherd who serves as a K-9 cop in Los Altos – led her to a second life partner, Sgt. Duane Tannock of the Palo Alto Police Department.

“We met through our dogs,” said Julie of encountering her future husband, who served as a K-9 officer before being promoted to the rank of sergeant. “Duane was very helpful at the time, particularly for a K-9 wannabe.”

During monthly trainings that brought together police dogs and their handlers from around the Bay Area, Duane not only mentored Julie and Lord, but also sparked a friendship that would lead to marriage six years later.

Surrounded by a circle of colleagues and family, the couple tied the knot last month.

Cuffs and canines

Julie has always harbored a soft spot for living creatures of every kind, according to her daughter, Lindsay Ognoskie, a college student who has fond childhood memories of the stray pets her mother welcomed into their home. When Julie pursued a second career in law enforcement at age 40, she stumbled into the opportunity to merge her interests as a K-9 officer. After shadowing her predecessor at the Los Altos Police Department for a year, Julie took the reins and began training as a police dog handler.

Undertaking one of the most demanding roles in the department, Julie not only made a commitment to her career, but also to significant lifestyle changes.

“When you have a dog, you literally take your work home with you,” said Julie of her responsibilities as a K-9 officer. “If you really want not only to bond with your dog, but also build abilities as a handler … you have to train on your own time.”

After Julie partnered with Lord, she spent even more time training and working in the field on emergency calls with Duane and his police dog Lucas. Although their work as K-9 officers initially brought them together, it was attraction – Duane to Julie’s beautiful spirit and Southern charm and Julie to Duane’s sharp-witted sense of humor and affable personality – that fostered the deeper connection.

Stress, unpredictable schedules and the physical demands of their profession might deter some law enforcement pairs from marrying, but Julie said that though police officers in general have a high rate of divorce, the ability of partners to understand each other’s responsibilities has its benefits.

“If my plans change all of a sudden because I’m getting ordered in (to the police station), there are things that my partner innately understands because it happens to him, too,” she said.

Working at neighboring precincts in Los Altos and Palo Alto allows the couple to spend time together over dinner when their night schedules overlap. They also keep watch on one another via a computer-aided dispatch system shared between departments.

But as confident as the couple was with their growing compatibility, their relationship had one more test to pass.

“When Duane and I started dating and got a little more serious, we decided to introduce the dogs,” Julie said.

Fortunately, Lord and Lucas quickly bonded as brothers, imparting an important seal of approval on the couple’s prospects for a lifelong union.

“We don’t have pets, we have children,” added Duane of the dogs, which join the couple’s three children in the family.

Planning a wedding

Last month’s wedding celebration in Pleasanton couldn’t come soon enough for Julie and Duane, who legally sealed their marriage at a civil ceremony officiated by Los Altos Police Chief Tuck Younis last fall. Although a big wedding was on the horizon, the civil ceremony enabled Duane’s son, on leave from the U.S. Marine Corps, to join the couple and their canines.

“We knew we wanted to have a wedding because neither of us really had one for our first marriages,” said Julie of the planning process that began more than a year before their big day.

Fortunately, Julie noted, their extensive network made finding vendors easy. Nearly every vendor at their wedding had a personal connection to the couple: Their wedding videographer was a fellow police officer, their disc jockey was a firefighter, their florist was the aunt of a dispatcher and their photographer was the sister of a colleague.

Incorporating the couple’s canines into their Save the Date announcement was important, so the couple coordinated a photo shoot with Lord and Lucas at Shoup Park in Los Altos.

Honeymoon surprise

Although Duane gives Julie credit for coordinating 99.1 percent of the wedding logistics, he put a twist on things when he decided to plan a surprise honeymoon. Although it wasn’t easy to keep the destination a secret, he called on the family to pack Julie’s bags and flight attendants to keep their destination under wraps. With Texas roots, Julie was relieved to learn that Duane selected the warm-weather destination of Antigua for some peaceful post-wedding bliss.

As their wedding day approached, Julie took time off to attend to details. She called their big day “flawless.” The Palm Event Center in Pleasanton proved to be a picturesque location for the couple to express their playful personalities. Following an open-air ceremony, guests enjoyed a photo booth, foosball games and an air hockey table. A cigar-rolling table was another special attraction that was particularly popular among the male police officers, who were well represented at the celebration. Julie estimates that 80 percent of their wedding guests were police officers, dispatch officers or professional colleagues. Duane named former Palo Alto Police Department colleague Sgt. Rebecca Phillips his “best woman.”

“Sometimes you spend more time with them than your own family,” Julie said of the strong bonds she and Duane have cultivated during their years in law enforcement.

Although the newlyweds left their police uniforms in the closet for their wedding day, a one-of-a-kind cake topper paid tribute to the forces that brought them together: two German shepherds beside a happy couple wielding guns.

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