Charon, an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois, who has been on the force since 2007 and partnered with Deputy Clint Adams since 2008, is retiring because the dog is losing his eyesight.
Falco, a 7-year-old Belgian Malinois, who has been on the K-9 unit since 2009, is retiring due to a degenerative health condition called bilateral vaigus deformity, which causes pain when running and other required activities.
“His front feet don’t rotate correctly and he can’t run or climb into the car without pain anymore,” explained Barnhill. “It is just not fair to work a dog with pain.”
Falco’s handler since 2010 has been Deputy Josh Skinner.
According to Lt. Michael Barnhill, there are six teams assigned to the special unit, which pairs highly trained handlers and their dogs to perform very specific law enforcement duties.
Five teams are assigned to patrol and narcotics duties, while one team concentrates solely on explosive detection, said Barnhill.
Barnhill, who has served with the Sheriff’s Department for 23 years, has spent 17 of them with the K-9 Unit. His current partner, Ace, a German Shepherd whom he describes as “the most photographed dog in the county,” is his fourth partner, and his been with him since 2009.
The annual meet and greet is tied in with the two-week “Pennies for Police Service Dogs” campaign. There are 17 elementary schools and six middle schools participating in the fund-raising effort, which is donated to the Chase Away K-9 Cancer Foundation in memory of dogs who have succumbed to canine cancer.
Over the past three years, $18,500 has been raised and donated to the organization from Douglas County, according to Barnhill.
Holding the event “is our way to let the community know how much we appreciate them,” said Barnhill, “and let them come out an see the dogs.”
He added, “The common bond between us and school kids is the dogs. It has an imprint on their lives.”
In addition to displaying and demonstrating the Douglas County Sheriff’s four-legged finest, service dogs from the Douglasville Police Department, Norfolk Southern railroad and Alpha team Search and Rescue participated in the event.
The Citizen Law Enforcement Academy Alumni (CLEA) were on hand providing cookies and small tokens for the kids, while displaying the many ways the organization supports law enforcement in the community.
Members of the Sheriff’s Boy Scout Explorer Post also assisted with the event.