The Jacksonville Police Department’s K-9 Unit is looking to retire Roby, one of its three four-legged officers, so he can spend the rest of his life getting belly rubs and filling up on treats at his handler’s house. Roby, a 10-year-old German shepherd, was injured in the line of duty last year, but he still comes to work each day, even though his injuries were quite severe.
“Roby was looking for a suspect [who] had already fought with two officers, and Roby did a track and found him,” said Regina Boyd, Roby’s handler and an officer with the Jacksonville Police Department.
Boyd said the suspect was covered in brush and trash, but Roby was able to locate him.
“[The suspect] wouldn’t come out,” Boyd said. “I gave the K-9 warning, and he still wouldn’t come out, so we let [Roby] go, and the guy ended up fighting with [Roby].”
As Roby’s handler, Boyd said, seeing her dog being hurt by a suspect was hard to watch.
“He pretty much body-slammed Roby down on the pavement and drug him across the road and threw him into a chain-link fence,” she said. “It was very hard, but I can say that Roby did his job, and he did what he was trained to do.”
With an apprehension that violent, all of Roby’s tendons in his back and legs were torn, and he also suffered some spinal damage, Boyd said.
“He’s been through two surgeries, and they repaired the tendons, but they can’t do anything with his spine,” Roby’s handler said. “He’s been going through physical therapy, which has helped a lot, and he’s been having laser treatments. It’s helped, but he’s still not 100 percent.”
Roby’s injuries prevent him from doing a long scent track on a suspect.
“He still limps, and he’s having a whole lot of problems with the cold weather right now,” Boyd said. “He fell down some steps this week because he couldn’t get his footing right.”
Roby’s age and injuries have played a part in the department trying to get a new dog for the K-9 unit so Roby can retire, but these dogs come with a hefty price tag.
“The dog costs around $9,000,” Boyd said.
The Jacksonville Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association is helping the department raise money for a replacement for Roby.
“They had a bake sale at Walmart, and we had a [fundraiser] night at Chili’s,” Boyd said. “We did a pancake breakfast, and they’re selling raffle tickets for a television and a quilt.”
In addition to previous fundraisers, Boyd said the association is organizing a basketball
game with a local church to help raise additional funds for the new four-legged officer.
Boyd said if the funds come together, she hopes Roby can fully retire in mid-February.
The dogs are shipped from overseas to Tulsa, where they complete their training at an academy there.
“When it gets to Tulsa, it has several different tests it goes through to make sure it’s capable of becoming a patrol dog,” she said. “The dogs that we get are called dual-purpose dogs. They will be used for suspect apprehension, handler protection, tracking, article search, narcotics and building search.”
Dogs start their training at about 6 months old, when they go to train in Tulsa, and usually start patrol when they reach the age of 1. In addition to their intense patrol training, Boyd said, the dogs also go through gunfire training.
“Whether it be the suspect firing or the handler firing, you don’t want a dog that will try to go for the weapon,” she said.
Boyd said her new partner will more than likely be another German shepherd.
“I’ll go spend a week with the dog in Tulsa and finish out his training,” Boyd said. “Then he’ll be fully trained and ready to hit the street.”
When the new canine officer starts, Roby will retire to Boyd’s home.
“He’s already got a place at home with me, and he’s ready,” she said.
For more information or to donate to “Help K-9 Roby Retire,” contact Barbie Mellinger, fundraising chairman and board member of the Jacksonville Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association, at (501) 256-4487 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or email@example.com.