Have You Met K-9 Dexter and His Partner Capt. Murphy?

“Don’t mind if he snores.”

I was climbing into the front seat of a Barnstable Count Sheriff’s K-9 patrol car and I thought maybe I had heard Captain Barney Murphy’s statement wrong through his thick Irish brogue.

“Excuse me?” I said.

“Dexter. Sometimes he snores”.


Barnstable County Sheriff K-9 Dexter, photo by: Cat Wilson

I looked through the divider into the back seat and sure enough, there was a beautiful black and brown dog . He barely reacted to me, a strange person sitting in the front seat next to his partner. I was completely surprised! In fact, I had expected a bark, a growl, a woof or even a sniff… Dexter didn’t even blink.

“He’s the strangest dog I have ever known. Don’t get me wrong, he is definitely one of the best, but he is certainly different.”  As his partner talked, Dexter rested his head on his paws and closed his eyes, as if he was barely paying attention. Most people envision highly trained K-9’s to be a little like race horses: high energy, a little scary and ready to pounce or attack on a single word command. Although I am confident that Dexter could snap to alert status in a fraction of a second, right now, there is no need. Dexter, who is a German Shepherd /  Malinois mix, came from Europe, where most of the K-9’s come from these days. Apparently, we have screwed up the gene pool in the United States by breeding dogs more often for appearance than intelligence. Dexter is 3 years old and don’t let his casual demeanor fool you. He can be a serious tracker. He is also very in tuned with his partner. If Barney is relaxed, Dexter is relaxed. If Captain Murphy is after a criminal, Dexter is focused on catching a criminal. Do you remember the stories about Tom Brady napping during half-time of the Super Bowl? Dexter is like Tom.  Dexter possesses the single most important character trait needed above all other to be a K-9: Courage.

Captain Barney Murphy has been working with K-9’s for the Barnstable County Sheriff’s office for close to 2 decades. He is also a recipient of one of the state’s highest awards: the Medal of Honor. He would be the first to tell you, however, that it was his recently retired K-9 Jaxx who really earned the award. The funny thing, of all the stories Captain Murphy told me, he never mentioned awards or medals or accolades.

Barney & Dexter

Barnstable County Sheriff Captain Barney Murphy training with K-9 Dexter. Photo: R.Lyons

Captain Murphy has blue in his blood. It runs in his very Irish family line. He was happy to tell me stories about his father and other family members in Ireland who are (or were) in law enforcement. Captain Murphy was very matter-of-fact as he told me about his very large family overseas. He said that he and his wife came to visit the United States and only planned to stay for a year or two.  He told me about his transition into undercover narcotics work for a few of the Cape police departments many years ago when he was driving for Hyannis Taxi.  From undercover work, he began working for the Sheriff’s Department at the jail and eventually, his decision to stay with the Sheriff’s Department was because of the hard work Sheriff Cummings was putting into turning the department and the jail around.

At well over 6 feet tall he towers over the rest of the Sheriff’s Department color guard and makes his 80 pound K-9 partner look…  well… short. Captain Murphy and his K-9 partners have been on the scenes of robberies, car crashes, assaults and murders. They have also been on hand for missing persons, and just a week earlier, the pair located a student who wandered away from the Riverview School in Sandwich. Dexter helped locate the teen deep in the woods and pucker brush several hours after he went missing.

During my ride-a-long, a call for a domestic situation crackled over the radio. Captain Murphy flicked on the patrol lights and we sped across Falmouth. Dexter barely moved. The dispatcher came over the radio: There is a prior for illegal possession of a fire arm…

“You are staying in the car”, Captain Murphy said to me as we circled the neighborhood. He parked across the street and just up from the address. There were 3 people standing around a car in the driveway. One of them waved to us at the sight of a marked vehicle, while another comforted a visibly upset young woman. As Capt. Murphy stepped out of the vehicle and approached the group, I saw two small children pop up from the back seat of the car.  There was someone inside the house who had (allegedly) threatened one of the adults with a knife.   Captain Murphy instructed everyone to cross the street and once he was sure it was safe, he instructed the children to climb out of the car and cross the street, too. Two Falmouth Police cruisers pulled up. Falmouth has jurisdiction while the Sheriff’s Department give support in the town. As the Falmouth officers spoke with the adults, I watched as Captain Murphy seemed to telescope down to less than half his height to talk with the two young children (a gentle giant).  He talked with them for some time and helped them relax.

Then I saw him stand up and turn around… Apparently someone inside the house was looking out. Barney pointed at him and instructed him to come outside. The individual did. He followed instructions to get down on the ground and peacefully let Captain Murphy and the Falmouth police officer handcuff him and he was escorted to one of the cruisers.

Captain Murphy returned to the vehicle and we drove away. “That could have been a whole lot worse.”

It can always be worse. As a K-9 officer, Captain Murphy gets called to some of the worst situations. It takes a particular personality to be able to clock into work and handle these situations. At the rank of Captain, Barney doesn’t have to be on the streets night after night. He clearly loves his work. And he loves his partner, and Dexter adores him.

For as calm and sweet as Dexter can be, I made sure to ask for a proper introduction at the end of our ride. It’s easy to forget that these dogs have jobs. Some K-9’s are friendly and approachable. Some need to stay focused on their duties and should not be distracted. If you see Captain Murphy out on patrol with Dexter, or any of the other K-9’s, remember to ask before you approach, and never assume it is ok to pat a working dog.



About Cat Wilson

Cat Wilson is "That Girl" on Cape Country 104 – a Cape Cod native and longtime Cape radio personality. She is a passionate supporter of Military and Veteran causes on the Cape and also hosts local music spotlight program, “The Cheap Seats” on Ocean 104.7.

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