Old dog, new trick: Retiring K-9 Heros learning how to relax

NORTH VERNON — North Vernon Police Department K-9 Heros, described by his handler as a police dog who doesn’t have an off switch, retired from the department Tuesday.

On his final day working with K-9 handler and Sgt. Andrew Richmond, Heros did a check on two separate cars stopped by police and alerted to drugs in both.

North Vernon police arrested four people Tuesday on drug-related charges involving methamphetamine, marijuana and paraphernalia after Heros’ check of the vehicles, Richmond said.

Heros, an 8½-year-old German Shepherd, might otherwise have a few more years of police work in him, but his age and a previous back injury were catching up with the dog, Richmond said.

Richmond has been working with Heros since April 2011. During his time with the department, Richmond estimates the dog made about 168 street finds of drugs, and half or more of those involved more than one person being arrested as a result of the search.

He estimated as many as 300 individuals were arrested after Heros was at the scene as part of a search.

Now the dog will live with the Richmond family, continuing with a little light-duty work occasionally, but limiting work mostly to exercise, Richmond said.

Richmond is stepping back from his canine handler role and is preparing to train another North Vernon officer for that, with the department’s new dog arriving soon. The department hopes to have the new dog working on patrols by June, he said.

Heros was the type of dog that just liked to work — all the time, Richmond said.

“He really matched my personality,” Richmond said. “It helped us when we were working together.”

While Heros is slowing down, Richmond is sure the dog will miss the police patrols and the searches.

“His mind is still wanting to work on patrol, but I could tell his body was getting tired,” Richmond said of Heros’ retirement. “Now I just need to teach him how to relax.”

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.