PASCO COUNTY, Fla.—They saying goes: dogs are a man’s best friend. That is especially true for the dog and deputy duos who work together to take out some of Pasco County’s most wanted.
But what happens when a K-9 hangs up their crime fighting harness and goes into retirement? 10News headed to Pasco County to meet with K-9 deputies and their retired K-9s to find out.
It turns out it’s not all lazy days and naps for the former working dogs.
Lt. Clint Cabbage said his retired K-9 Fin knows when he puts the uniform on it’s time to go to work, but Fin has to stay home when Cabbage heads out.
“I think it’s hard for him because he smells the uniform and knows the routine. He’s ready to go,” Cabbage said.
Fin isn’t the only one having a hard time with his retirement.
“I miss him not being behind me at work. I think the biggest adjustment is for the handler. When you leave the unit or lose a dog, you’re so used to having them behind you when you’re working, if he’s not there it’s strange,” Cabbage said.
Retired K-9 Eragon misses being on patrol too. Every day when his partner Cpl. Cliff Baltzer heads out with his new K-9 Tundra, Eragon wants to work too.
“K-9 Eragon doesn’t like watching K-9 Tundra come to work with me. He doesn’t like sitting at home too much,” Baltzer said.
Eragon and Fin both retired from the line of duty this spring.
Fin retired at an early age because a dog can't go through more than two handlers during its career; and his second handler, Lt. Cabbage was promoted. Fin was the ripe old age of five when he was retired from the job.
Cabbage got Fin from a previous handler when he was promoted to the K-9 unit. They went to narcotic training together.
"Dope school was one of my favorite memories with him," Cabbage said.
Cabbage said anytime Fin could track somebody down was a good time.
"He could sniff them out in swamps, in trees, it's amazing," Cabbage recalled.
Eragon was with the K-9 unit for almost 10 years when he retired. He joined the force from Germany when he was 14-months old.
"Eragon was his name from Germany, and I though that was unique so I kept it," Baltzer said.
Cpl. Baltzer said he remembered the first time he went out with Eragon.
"The first time is a little weird. They're rambunctious. They get on the scent and just want to take off to they're yanking at your arm," Baltzer said.
When K-9 officers retire, they move in with their K-9 deputy partner full time. That leaves the deputies and their families responsible for the medical costs for their partners.
Cabbage and Baltzer said the Pasco community rallies behind the K-9s and really supports them. However, a lot of that support is focused on new and current K-9s -- not the retired ones.
To help with the expenses of the retired K-9s the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is going to hold a golf tournament in August.
While retirement is something that’s usually looked forward to, it’s been a ruff time for these working dogs.
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