MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. -- One word is all K-9 deputy Echo needs from his handler Deputy Chris Thames.
“They’re an extension of us, they do it no question, give 100%,” says Thames.
Two-year-old Echo is Thames' partner. He says, “They are 100% loyal. Do what we ask of them. They’re trained to go into gunfire, trained for a situation a regular deputy won’t go into, do it quicker and faster.”
Don’t try to outrun him. Echo is clocked at 36 miles per hour.
The bond between a deputy and his dog is strengthened on and off the job
Thames says, “They are a tool for the agency but our best friend. We expect to go home with us every night. When they don’t it’s something that’s unbearable for us.”
“At the drop of a hat he’ll give his life to protect mine. ... It's unbelievable,” says Sgt. Stephen Chenard, head of the K-9 unit for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office is mourning the death of K-9 deputy Forrest. He was shot and killed Tuesday night while chasing a suspect. So far this year, 30 other K-9s have been killed in the line of duty across the country according to the Officer Down Memorial website.
“That’s a K-9 handler’s worst nightmare,” says Chenard.
Chenard’s dog is the unit’s youngest -- 17-month-old Yas.
“He’s great with my kids. I have two young kids at home,” says Chenard.
And when it’s time to go to work Thames says, “He loves to go to work. It’s not a job for him. He wants to be with dad hopefully go out catch some bad guys.”
Thames says if he had to choose between a dog and a human as a partner without hesitation he chooses. “Him. ... Every day and twice on Sunday," he says laughing.
In Florida, killing a police dog like Forrest is a third-degree felony carrying up to five years in prison.