Every dog has its day, and now through a new state constitutional amendment, law enforcement animals can spend their retirement years as normal dogs with their handlers.
Passed Tuesday with 94% of the vote, Proposition 10 removes the requirement that these animals must be auctioned off as surplus property.
In some local officials’ opinions, this opportunity is long overdue.
Corey Cameron, Smith County Sheriff’s Office K-9 deputy, got his K-9 Endy, a Belgian Malinois, in late 2013. Endy was retired this August after medical issues. The dog was able to live with Cameron and his wife for the remainder of his life. He died Nov. 2.
“He got to be a dog like normal dogs,” Cameron said.
He believes the K-9 coming to the handler’s home should have already been allowed.
“I think it should have been like that all along,” he said. “I think they should have gone to their handler and their family because they are family.”
Becoming partners with Endy also coincided with losing his young son. Cameron’s 7-year-old son, Kasen, died in 2014 of a degenerative brain condition.
“At that time, it did, it helped me cope with it,” Cameron said.
Spending time with Endy helped Cameron stay busy when Kasen’s health was poor.
“It gave me something else to put my mind to,” he said. “It involves a lot of work with your dog.”
Cameron said he was fascinated after seeing fellow officers with their K-9 partners.
“To me, it’s the best job in the world,” he said. “You get paid to play with a dog…”
Together, he and Endy patrolled Smith County for criminal offenders, drug and human smugglers, and people with felony warrants.
Cameron is now in Austin for training toward obtaining his next K-9 partner. He said he hopes to continue in the position as long as Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith allows it.
Smith County Precinct 4 Constable Josh Joplin became a K-9 handler in a slightly different way compared to others.
While working as a Brownsboro police officer, he purchased his K-9 Calif himself and obtained the required certifications out of his pocket.
“I looked at it as investing in the community,” he said.
Joplin began training with Calif in October 2012 and became his handler that December. He later brought the dog with him when he became constable in 2017.
Calif, a Czech shepherd from the Netherlands, is now 9 years old. Joplin plans to retire the K-9 on June 26, which is the dog’s birthday.
“I feel the best partner we can have is a dog because of their loyalty,” Joplin said. “I had the ability to work and keep up with a dog.”
While Proposition 10 was not needed for Joplin because he owns Calif, he’s glad to see that other handlers can now bring their K-9 partners home for retirement.
“It gives them the ability to take the dogs home. It’s very hard for a dog to let that bond go,” Joplin said. “You know that dog better than anyone else.”
He added that it would be unfair for the dog to have to move on to another handler.
“I’ve done more with him than any other dog,” he said. “He and I have been through hell and back.”
Calif has limitations now as he gets older. His nose is still excellent, but once dogs reach 7 or 8 years of age their abilities tend to decline, Joplin said.
He brings Calif to visit schools for educational purposes, perform drug/narcotic searches at schools and parking lots, assist other agencies, and work search-and-rescues.
He called Calif an excellent tool to educate kids.
With Calif, Joplin has traveled to Brownsboro, Murchison, Arp, Chapel Hill, Troup, Winona and Crossroads ISDs as well as Tyler Junior College for drug searches and educational presentations.
Joplin likens his and Calif’s relationship to that of a father and son.
“The dog becomes a part of your life,” he said. “They not only become a partner, they become family.”
While there’s not funding for another K-9 after Calif, Joplin said he would add another one if the community was able to donate toward the cost.