BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Sheriff's Office is mourning the loss of a beloved veteran of the department. And while not a paid employee, the 4-year-old German shepherd, Ike, one of the department's four-member canine unit for three years, was nonetheless an integral part of the department's crime-fighting force.
According to the Sheriff's Office, Ike and his handler, Deputy Brandon Cox, were en route to a service call Thursday when the deputy noticed the dog convulsing on the rear seat of his cruiser. The dog died a short time later during emergency surgery after veterinarians diagnosed him with an undisclosed medical condition.
Sgt. Tim Bammert said that members of his canine unit were distressed to learn of Ike's passing and that Cox took the news particularly hard and was given permission to take the weekend off.
"These dogs are like family," Bammert said. "You work with them, play with them and take them home with you. You see them more than your family. When something like this happens, it's hard to get over."
Acquired by the department in 2011, Ike was Germany-born and received initial training with Cox at Southern Coast K-9s in New Smyrna Beach.
Bammer said Ike's service to the agency was both stellar and substantial. Dual trained in criminal apprehension and drug detection, he was credited with helping to apprehend dozens of suspects.
Like all dogs on the force, Ike was trained to understand two languages — English and German — to differentiate between commands a deputy gives to his dog and those given to suspects.
The dogs typically serve between eight and nine years on the job, and deputies joining the unit must agree to remain for four years due the difficulty in transferring a dog to a different handler.
Bammer said that the Sheriff's Office intends to replace Ike and that Cox will remain assigned as a canine trainer with the department.
Plans for a memorial service for Ike are pending.