With nearly four years of sniffing out drugs for the police behind her, Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office narcotics K9 Roxy is retiring.
The seven-year-old black lab assisted with her last drug bust June 22.
“That night we took three people to jail, so it was nice to end on a good note,” said Roxy’s handler, Sgt. Travis Hayton.
Roxy began her career with the sheriff’s office in November 2015. Hayton, who had assisted other handlers in bite work and other training with their K9s, jumped on the opportunity to have a K9 partner of his own when it arose.
“I always wanted to be a K9 handler,” Hayton said. “It was rewarding just to see the dog work, to have her go to a place and sit and stare at it and know that there’s dope — it’s rewarding just to see her do her job.”
In addition to drug searches, Roxy also assisted in article searches. If someone tried to toss an item out of a car window, for example, the police pooch would find that, too.
Hayton and Roxy would spend the next several years helping remove drugs from the streets of Tazewell County. The duo just returned from advanced training at a training center in Michigan last October.
“She’s been a real good K9,” said Sheriff Brian Hieatt. “We’ve made several arrests due to the work she’s done.”
Hayton describes Roxy as a good dog with a high drive.
“She knows the difference between work and play and when we went to work, she knew it was time to work,” Hayton said. “On our days off, it was just hanging out at the house, throwing the ball and just letting her be a normal dog.”
The decision to retire Roxy was a tough one to make, but concerns for Roxy’s health made it a necessary one. The pooch has undergone three surgeries in the last two months— one to remove cancer and repair a hernia, a second for other repairs and a third to repair a second hernia.
“We talked and due to all the surgeries and plus her age, too, we decided to retire her,” Hayton said.
While the duo will no longer patrol the streets of Tazewell County as a team, they’ll still spend plenty of time together. Roxy now lives as a full-time pet at the Hayton home.
The transition is going to take some adjustment on both of their parts, Hayton said.
“She’s still pretty active and it’s going to be different for her being at the house all the time. It’s something she’s going to have to get used to and we’re going to have to get used to.”
Though being a K9 handler has been a rewarding experience that he’s immensely enjoyed, Hayton said he won’t be a handler for the police for the sheriff’s office at least for the foreseeable future.
Not long after he and Roxy teamed up, Hayton was promoted to sergeant. Being a sergeant meant he would take on extra responsibilities. For now, he plans to focus on those duties and spend time with Roxy at home.
The Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office won’t be down a K9 for too long, though. Hayton passed the leash over to Deputy Jason Riggs, who’s currently at the FMK9 facility in Michigan training with new narcotics and patrol dog Arca.
Hieatt said the sheriff’s office was able to snag the new K9 through a contest the Michigan training center ran last year. Additional funds for the officer’s and the K9’s training—which was half price through the contest—was raised through private donations from local businesses and individuals.
Hayton said he is thankful to the sheriff’s office and the High Point Canine Solutions center in North Carolina for allowing him the chance to become Roxy’s handler. He’s also grateful to Crab Orchard Veterinary Service for caring for his beloved pooch.
It’s not going to be the same going to work without Roxy.
“I’ll miss it,” Hayton said. “but at least when I go home, she’ll still be there.”
Roxy will be officially retired from the county at the August board of supervisors meeting.