Blount County (WVLT) – The bond between a canine officer and his partner is a special one, so the loss of a Kentucky officer and his canine has become a personal one for some East Tennessee K-9 units.
You really have to be careful about using the word "pet" when it comes to canine officer.
"There is that fine line there,” said Rusty Aycocke, a Blount County K-9 officer, “I would better refer to it as our best friend.”
Not only a best friend, but also their furry ride-along companion and equal partner.
But unlike the end of a shift for a regular black and blue, these officers and their canine partners don't go their separate ways.
"Dog stays with us 24 hours a day, seven days a week, he’s part of my family,” said Kevin Fuller, Maryville Police K-9 officer.
Due to respect, pet is not a word these canine officers use.
"No one other than a handler really understands just how important they are to us and what a bond we develop with these dogs,” said Aycocke.
When you add up all the training they do together, handlers say their partners really do become a best friend until death do them part.
"He knows what I'm thinking and I know what he's thinking,” said Fuller.
"They can hear what we can't hear, see what we can't see,” said Aycocke. “They will give their life for us and they will protect us at all cost."
Outside the Blount County Criminal Justice Center lies a memorial to the canines who have served as officers for the department and have passed away.
Deputy Aycocke lost Tiger while in service after he passed away from complications due to surgery.
He said the death of his partner took a toll on him.
“That was probably the worst loss that I've experienced in my life so far,” Aycocke said.
So when a Kentucky officer lost his life early Thursday morning, that's not how these officers see it.
"No, actually they lost two," Fuller said.
Officer Aycocke said when they lose a canine they always have a service for the dog.
He hopes and believes they will do the same in Kentucky.