FULTON, NY – The Fulton Police Department recently welcomed Meki, a 15-month-old male German Sheppard from Holland, to its ranks.
Meki is handled by Officer Jarrett Marino and taking over for the newly retired Rika.
While Meki and Officer Marino hit the streets of Fulton, Rika will be enjoying the quite life in her handler, Sergeant Craig Westbook’s backyard.
When a police dog retires it can be adopted by private citizens or remain with its handler as a pet.
Since FPD is a smaller department and there is a new K9 handler, Rika stays with Sgt. Westbrook.
“She is basically a pet,” said Sgt. Westbrook. “Just like any dog, you take her for a walk or throw a Frisbee. All that stuff I didn’t do when she was a police dog, because you don’t want them to associate a tennis ball or a Frisbee with fun. Then when you’re trying to use them to work she comes across a tennis ball and wants to play catch.”
Rika retired with eight years of service under her collar.
Along with her handler, she worked on more than 100 cases and was even called on to aid other law enforcement agencies such as the Oswego County Sheriff’s Department.
“It varies,” said Sgt. Westbrook when asked what the normal length of service is for police dogs. “Depending on the amount of activity and any problems they may have. They’re usually in service until their about 10 years old.”
Rika’s job with FPD was dual purpose as both a patrol dog and narcotics dog.
Her duties “encompass building searches, tracking, handler protection, area searches, and then drugs. She was trained to search marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and any drug with a similar chemical compound.”
According to Sgt. Westbrook the transition to civilian life for the dogs is usually straightforward.
“From what I’ve been told,” he said. “It’s not that difficult a transition.”
“A lot of times when a dog retires it’s because of an injury or illness,” Sgt. Westbrook said. “She had a few injuries throughout her career, and they had me keep tabs on it.”
As Rika neared 10 years of age Sgt. Westbrook asked if she could “retire before she hurt herself.”
As of now, Rika is doing well in her retirement.
“All that stuff she didn’t get to do when she was a police dog, now she does,” said Sgt. Westbrook. “She’s not as fast as she used to be and she tires out quicker. But, she’s still playful and likes to do stuff dogs do.”