A Columbus police canine who worked his final shift this week received a sendoff befitting a long-time civil servant — a juicy steak.
K-9 Rex, who has worked as a drug detection and tracking dog for the Columbus Police Department since 2008, finished his eight-year career early Tuesday morning with his first taste of human food — it normally isn’t allowed — provided courtesy of Texas Roadhouse.
Rex’s handler, Columbus Police Officer Chad Lehman, and other officers had a reception for the dog to recognize him for his service — which included making nearly 250 apprehensions and searching more than 100 buildings for suspects. In those eight years, Rex also went on about 200 tracking missions, his final one on Christmas Eve.
Lehman, who has been an officer at CPD for about 15 years, said Rex’s reputation is one of a dog constantly on the go — sociable but not overly affectionate — and very independent. The Czech shepherd, who comes from the Czech Republic, is a little bigger than the standard shepherd, and the breed is known to be aggressive when alerting to narcotics or a suspect, Lehman said.
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Rex has a few idiosyncrasies — none that are endearing to criminals — but are amusing to officers at times, his handler said. Originally trained to scratch when he identified the smell of narcotics through a car door, Rex has been known to take it a step further and simply open the car door by biting on the door handle.
“He figured that out on his own,” Lehman said.
Rex did most of his work on the night shift with Lehman, although canine officers know they’re pretty much on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week as needed.
In retirement, Rex will have a bit more leisure time, joining Lehman and his wife and their two other dogs at their home. Lehman jokes that Rex knows he is the alpha male of the pack — behind Lehman and his wife.
“Rex is part of our family,” he said.
The family will get another canine resident when Lehman is paired with a new CPD K-9 and begins a new partnership at work, while still enjoying having Rex around at home.
Eight years ago, when Lehman was paired with Rex, he remembers the trainer telling him that every man will have one extraordinary dog once in their lifetime.
“That’s what Rex has been for me,” Lehman said. “I’ve been fortunate to have an extraordinary dog.”