CLAYTON -- After five years on the force, it’s finally time for Justice to hang up his leash.
The only K-9 in the Clayton Police Department’s K-9 unit will have to learn to become a house pet now, and his former partner will have to learn to do without his loyal companion on the job.
With Justice retiring, the police department will have to start looking for another police dog, which wasn’t put in the town budget for this year. Because of the extensive training they go through, police dogs can cost $5,000 to $7,000.
The department has been without a dog for a few months now, as Justice was out of commission this summer with a medical condition. While the department can borrow a K-9 unit from another force, Chief Glen Allen said it leaves the department at a slight disadvantage not to have a dog on call.
“It’s not terribly problematic as we can call on other agencies to bring one in, but the delay can cause a diminishing of our police services. It’s better to have a dog available,” Allen said.
In his five-year career, Justice was mostly used for narcotics searches, although police dogs are trained to find articles of evidence, and track suspects or missing people.
His partner, Off. Will McIntosh, said Justice’s most high-profile case during his career was when he helped detectives locate 86 pounds of marijuana in packages that came through the mail at the UPS store in Clayton.
Justice will have to put all that glory behind him and learn to relax a little bit. Kept in a pen in the backyard, Justice hadn’t spent much time with McIntosh’s family. Now, McIntosh is trying to get the dog to socialize with his wife and children and their other family dog.
“He still has the mentality of a work dog but we’re easing him into retirement and into a social life at home,” McIntosh said.
Whenever McIntosh leaves the house, he says Justice gets particularly excited, but it’s hard to tell if it’s because he’s desperate to go to work with him or just because he’s happy to see his partner.
Growing up, McIntosh had a neighbor who dated a police officer in a K-9 unit, and he got a chance to meet the dog and learn about working with a police dog.
“He brought (the dog) over and showed me some of his agility and some of the things he could do, and I kind of fell in love with it at that point in time,” McIntosh said.
Now that the K-9 unit is behind him, McIntosh says he’ll miss working with Justice.
“(I miss) the constant companionship, it’s a lot quieter in my car now. It’s almost a saddening quiet because anytime that I would make certain moves in the car it kind of triggered him to ... get ready,” McIntosh said.
Part of what he’ll miss most is the protection that Justice offered, he said.
“He was always on alert and set me on alert. It made me feel a lot safer knowing I had constant backup with me and a backup that was never gonna hesitate,” McIntosh said.
Now, Justice’s job will be to protect the whole McIntosh family, and they’re getting one heck of a guard dog.