He wasn’t the first four-legged friend to spend time at the Home Office, but he was the first to actually work while he was there.
For most of us, taking a nap while on the clock would result in some form of disciplinary action. For a special few, it’s part of a normal day at the office. Such was life for Maverick, Walmart’s beloved safety dog who earned every second he spent napping thanks to his years of tireless service to the company and the community.
Born October 21, 2002, Maverick arrived in Bentonville in May of 2003. By June, he was getting his first taste of Shareholders, though not as an officer. For his first Shareholders, Maverick was there solely to begin the process of socialization as he and Patty Morgan began their partnership.
How Maverick Came to Call Bentonville Home
Patty, the pioneer behind Walmart’s K9 program, became interested in canine resources after 9/11. In the process of researching, she discovered that there were two schools of thought on the subject – one which focused on affable dogs with welcoming appearances and one which focused on strong dogs with an appearance that lent itself to deterrence.
What was important to Walmart associates, and thus to Patty, was deterrence, so she set about selling the idea of a German Shepherd. Ultimately, she prevailed and Maverick joined the team as Walmart’s only official four-legged associate. First, though, he had to undergo training.
Training for a K9 officer is a tad more rigorous than for the average dog. K9s cannot stop with sit and stay. They have to be able to climb ladders and take steps on command. There are also the supplies necessary to training a dog that can detect explosives which, for obvious reasons, aren’t readily available to the public at large.
A Helping Hand, and a Helping Paw
That’s where the Bentonville Police Department stepped in. Officer Guary Morgan, the K9 handler for the force, agreed to let Patty and Maverick train with him and his dog so that Maverick could learn detection.
Training wasn’t just about detection and obedience, though. It was also about the growing bond between Patty and Maverick. It grew as Maverick grew into a quite capable officer. In fact, his progress was faster than Patty’s.
It was 2004 and Maverick was officially on duty, sweeping Barnhill Arena in preparation for Shareholders. As he searched the coaches’ office, he sat down in front of a cabinet, his passive indication that there was something amiss in that cabinet. But Patty didn’t believe him.
He searched the room again and once more alerted in front of the same spot. Patty again doubted Maverick, but went to Guary for his opinion. After a gentle scolding for not rewarding Maverick for doing his job, Guary sent in his dog DJ to sweep the room. DJ sat down in the same spot. Maverick, it seemed, was correct and there was something amiss.
Thankfully, it wasn’t an explosive device. What they discovered was that above the cabinet was a shelf and an air vent; on top of the shelf, a starter pistol and a box of rounds. The vent was blowing the smell from that starter pistol down to that spot and making the dogs think that the something suspicious they were smelling was inside the cabinet.
A Lover of His Fellow Animals, If Not Big Red
From there, Maverick went on to many more years of service, whether patrolling Year Beginning Meetings or sweeping a green room before First Lady Laura Bush arrived. He worked Razorback football games despite his aversion to Big Red, the giant inflatable mascot. He took part in Maverick Days at The Walmart Museum in which he posed for pictures and helped kids learn about the importance of safety.
Through all his service, though, Maverick remained a dog. He loved horses, his ball, and visits with Patty’s mom –aka “Grandma.” Most of all, he loved being Patty’s companion. He was there with her as she pioneered the program, he was the animal that taught her just how close the bond between human and animal could be.
Maverick wasn’t the only animal around the house. His family included two other dogs and one cat. Today, though, that family looks different than it once did. Now only Merlin and Kate, those two dogs, and Francois Pierre, the Abyssian cat, still roam the house. Maverick, the constant for so many years, cannot be found curled in his bed anymore, having passed in December 2015. But Maverick isn’t truly gone. In spirit, he remains where he’s been since 2003 – by Patty’s side, reminding her of their shared bond and accomplishments.