A part­ner in crime-fight­ing

Death of K-9 a re­minder of bond be­tween of­fi­cers and their dogs

Lodi News-Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Oula Miq­bel NEWS-SEN­TINEL STAFF WRITER

The San Joaquin County Sher­iff’s Of­fice an­nounced the death of K-9 Haakon on Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

The ca­nine’s death comes months be­fore he was set to re­tire from his du­ties, ac­cord­ing to Lt. Randy John­son.

Haakon was found un­re­spon­sive af­ter a training session on Wed­nes­day.

“He had done his walk­ing training that morn­ing be­fore it was too warm. Af­ter deputies put him in his ken­nel, he was found un­re­spon­sive 15 min­utes later,” John­son said, adding that the dog was im­me­di­ately taken to a ve­teri­nary hos­pi­tal.

Tests con­ducted on Haakon showed that his kidneys were func­tion­ing as nor­mal and that he was not suf­fer­ing from heat ex­haus­tion, John­son said.

Al­though Haakon was re­leased on Wed­nes­day evening and was able to walk on his own, he died on Thurs­day morn­ing.

“Haakon was ap­proach­ing nine years of age, and he had a large stature. He also had not fully re­cov­ered af­ter be­ing stabbed in the neck,” John­son said, re­fer­ring to an in­ci­dent in 2014 in which a flee­ing sus­pect stabbed the K-9 in the neck.

“K-9 Haakon had over­come any and all of the ex­treme and dan­ger­ous chal­lenges,” the sher­iff’s de­part­ment wrote in a Face­book post.

De­spite his age, Haakon was still a very ac­tive dog who was able to per­form his re­quired du­ties, John­son said. The du­ti­ful German shep­herd had worked along­side Deputy Joshua Still­man since 2013.

“Deputy Still­man and K-9 Haakon have been a rock-solid team that has made count­less, pos­i­tive and last­ing im­pacts on the com­mu­nity. They bravely and proudly served,” the Face­book post read.

The pair had forged a spe­cial bond, John­son said, and joined to­gether in many dan­ger­ous pur­suits. The duo worked with tac­ti­cal units dur­ing ar­rests and busts that were more in­ten­sive than typ­i­cal res­cue op­er­a­tions.

“Un­like other spe­cial­ized units, you work with your part­ner 24/7. You see them more than fam­ily. The bond formed can’t be com­pared to any­one else,” John­son said. “You rely on each other to get through ex­tremely high-stress sit­u­a­tions.”

John­son said that los­ing a K-9 is ex­tremely dif­fi­cult be­cause it af­fects both fam­ily and col­leagues.

“The at­tach­ment be­tween the of­fi­cer and dog — it is like los­ing a part of your­self, es­pe­cially af­ter seven years,” John­son said. “You re­ally have to ad­just to the idea of not see­ing them again. It’s hard.”

Still­man and other K-9 of­fi­cers have a sup­port sys­tem that helps them reac­cli­mate to the work en­vi­ron­ment fol­low­ing the death of a K-9 part­ner.

“They push through their loss be­cause they know that their job is to pro­tect and serve their com­mu­nity. That’s the job they are signed up to do,” John­son said.

The de­part­ment does of­fer be­reave­ment leave for of­fi­cers when a K-9 dies or is killed. The length of the leave is de­cided on a case-by-case ba­sis.

John­son said that Still­man will be work­ing deputy pa­trols upon his re­turn and help­ing train an­other K-9 named Poker, who is ex­pected to work pa­trols in the com­ing months.

PHO­TOS COUR­TESY OF THE SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY SHER­IFF’S OF­FICE

San Joaquin County Sher­iff’s Deputy Joshua Still­man leads K-9 Haakon through a walk­ing training. Haakon died on Thurs­day, a day af­ter be­ing found un­re­spon­sive in his ken­nel.

Haakon poses with sun­glasses on. The Sher­iff’s K-9 died on Thurs­day.

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