Franklin police lost a valued member of its team.
K-9 Pepper’s handler found the dog unresponsive early Sunday morning. The canine had no known illnesses, so the death was a shock to her handlers and the entire department, said Kirby Cochran, Franklin police chief.
“At seven years old, it is kind of a shock to everyone,” Cochran said. “These dogs are a crucial part of our operations, so we treat them just like any other officer.”
The Franklin Police Department is awaiting an autopsy but don’t expect foul play was involved. The autopsy is being performed at Purdue University, and is expected to be completed Monday afternoon, he said.
Pepper, a Belgian Malinois, was born on Valentine’s Day 2014 in The Netherlands. She served the department for seven years, helping her handlers find evidence in many drug cases and searches, and track down suspects.
She was partnered with Officers Jesse Brown and Jeffrey Dawe, who worked with her, cared for her and welcomed her into their families.
“For the handlers, it is tough losing their partners because not only are they on a 12-hour shift working with them, they take them home and they are part of their family,” Cochran said. “So it isn’t just a loss for the officer, it is a loss for the whole family.”
Her handlers say Pepper loved meeting the citizens of Franklin, playing with her tennis balls and showing off her detection skills as one of the best K9 partners in the area, according to a news release about her passing.
“K-9 Pepper will be missed by all and remembered as an FPD Officer,” Cochran said. “K-9 Pepper’s companionship and contributions to the city and the Franklin Police Department will be truly missed. Please Keep Officer Brown and Dawe and their families in your thoughts and prayers.”
Pepper was one of four K-9’s in the patrol division. The department also has a therapy dog that is used by the department’s social worker.
In addition to the emotional toll of losing Pepper, the department now has to buy another dog.
“It will be about $20,000 and obviously, that is not in our budget,” Cochran said. “These dogs are crucial to our operations and we need every one of them.”