Excerpt from the book, “Living With Leo” by Sherry Engler:
Click, click, click. Click, click, click.
It is 3 o’clock in the morning, so you sleepily drag your body out of bed to see what the clicking is all about. There he stands in the living room, your LEO, in his underwear holding his duty weapon in his shooting stance, pointing his Glock toward the window, “dry-firing” his gun over and over. Click, click, click.
You ask, “What are you doing, hon?”
LEO answers, “We have to qualify today, so I thought I would get in a little practice dry-firing.”
Sherry Engler admits this isn’t what normal wives wake up to, but living with a law enforcement officer (LEO) is anything but normal — especially when he’s Payson’s chief of police.
“LEOs are very loveable creatures; they are just very different. And to live with one, it takes some courage, some understanding (to say the least) and the ability to adapt to their abnormal behaviors,” she writes in her new book “Living with LEO,” which will hit shelves Sept. 21.
Throughout the book, Sherry recounts strange and often hilarious episodes that a wife or spouse might encounter living with a cop. She offers access to a world rarely seen by outsiders — a place where officers appear human — even comical.
Sherry said she wrote the book to help other “LEO supporters” or spouses cope with the challenges of a law enforcement career — the deaths, threats and long hours — but also the brighter, funnier side.
She writes about the time a LEO came home from a stressful day and crashed on the couch lethargically.
“It is in this state that your LEO is most vulnerable at home, and your children know it,” she writes. “Little sprout may take this opportunity to place bright pink earrings on his ears and place necklaces around his neck, playing ‘dress up.’”
Little sprout names him Donnella and tells everyone at school the next day how dad likes to play dress up.
Or the time little tot handcuffed LEO on his lunch break and she had to saw them off when the key broke, wiping tears of laughter away all the while.
The children meanwhile, run around the house shouting, “We arrested you. We arrested you. You are caught. You are caught,” she writes.
Sherry insists all of the examples in the book are fiction, but inspired by real events. While she refers to “LEO” generically, she’s clearly referring to Payson Police Chief Don Engler, Sherry’s husband of 35 years.
Asked if the Donnella event really happened, Don laughs and admits it did.
Sherry doesn’t deny it either.
“He is cute, but he is even cuter in pink earrings,” she said during an interview with the Roundup.
And how does Don feel about his wife writing a book that pulls so much from their private life?
“I am very proud of her and that she has taken something a lot of law enforcement wives find difficult and found a way to make it work for her,” he said. “Hopefully it helps them understand law enforcement better.”
Sherry said she always wanted to write a book and knew it would be about living with an officer.
“I kept teasing (Don) through the years that someday I am going to write a book.”
Her first draft, however, was too dark and serious, focusing on the scarier side of law enforcement.
She decided she didn’t want to go that route and in her second version, took a livelier, chatty approach. That too felt wrong.
Finally, in the third and final revision, she found her voice.
It is a bright, candid tone that confronts the realities of law enforcement, but contrasts them with funnier moments.
For example, she writes about a LEO coming home smelling of death.
“Clorox bleach is truly a life saver for LEO,” she writes. Afraid of contracting something, LEOs will practically shower in the stuff after working bloody scenes. One officer she even heard rinsed his mouth out with the liquid after becoming exposed to the AIDS virus during a death investigation.
For a spouse, she writes, it means never knowing if you can hug them before you disinfect them.
“You stop in your tracks. You don’t want to hug LEO if LEO has touched dead people. You do an about-face and run for the Clorox,” she writes.
Sherry said she never found a book that dealt with topics like this and knew other spouses were probably going through the same things.
New officers and their wives, however, don’t realize what they are getting into and this book offers a crash course in what 30 years in law enforcement can bring.
She said every time she attends a cadet graduation, she hears wives say, “Oh, thank goodness: Life will be normal now since the academy is over.”
“In my mind I am like, ‘Honey, your life is going to be anything but normal,’” she said. “But it is good to be optimistic anyway.”
And while cadets receive weeks of training, spouses do not.
When they wake up in the middle of the night to find their spouses dry firing in the living room, they may wonder, “Is this normal?” Sherry hopes her book helps them see that yes it is normal and you aren’t crazy.
During Don’s decades-long career, Sherry often found herself asking, “Is this normal?”
She met Don more than 35 years ago in Buoy, Ariz., a small town east of Willcox. They started dating long-distance in college while she attended the University of Arizona and he went to Western New Mexico University.
After graduation, Don started his career in law enforcement and Sherry worked mostly at home raising their two children, Brandyce and Donald Jr.
A creative person by nature, Sherry was always writing or painting. She has published poetry and her paintings hang in Don’s office at the police department.
While Sherry is exuberant and colorful, Don is more black and white, his tough exterior built up after years on the force.
Sherry said she always admired officers, especially Don, for their integrity, courage and willingness to run toward danger when most people run away.
She was surprised, however, when both of her children decided to go into the law enforcement field too.
Brandyce works as a sheriff’s deputy in Oklahoma and Donald II is a deputy with the Gila County Sheriff’s Office in Payson.
“I think they were inspired by him,” she said. “He has been a tremendous role model for them.”
Sherry admits when the family gets together, their conversations almost always swirl around police work.
Still, Don has found ways to support her interests. One year he surprised her with a trip to San Francisco and a tour of local museums.
“I didn’t even know he knew those museums existed,” she said laughing.
And after writing each chapter, Don would mull it over, offering his suggestions and encouragement.
While he spends his days arresting drug dealers and she spends hers drawing pet portraits, Sherry said their mutual support holds them together. They’ve never taken one another for granted.
“Destiny is always a questionable call, so tell your loved ones you love them every single day,” she writes. “My recommendation for living with LEO is to live within the moment. Cherish this day. Cherish this present flashing of time; focus on the present instances of joys and perhaps even sorrows.”
And every day, she prays for their safety.
“I really do ask God to walk with them through their day,” she said. “You can’t be on pins and needles every day, you just have to have faith.”