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Local K-9 officer passes away

Editor’s note: This story was written by Matt Rabren, a former K-9 handler. 

A six-year law enforcement canine veteran, Avalon, passed away on April 11, 2016. She was 13 years old. Avalon began her service to the citizens of Escambia County, Ala., in January 2004 after we had completed 450 hours of initial training with the Escambia County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office, who trained and certified to the standards set forth by the United States Police Canine Association. Avalon was retired on March 28, 2010.

0420 Avalon 2016I was first introduced to Avalon one evening in October 2003. By the end of that first week of training, I knew that between the two of us, she was the better officer. In the years we worked together, Avalon and I conducted more than 54 home and/or apartment searches and at least 219 vehicle searches. Those numbers do not include the dozens of searches performed as part of our monthly “maintenance” training and annual re-certifications. Avalon assisted over 17 different law enforcement agencies in our area. In that time, two of her largest finds were 365 pounds of marijuana in a stolen pickup truck and she assisted in the single largest crystal methamphetamine bust in Escambia County, Ala. in 2010.

She appeared in every public school in Escambia County. Sometimes we performed proactive checks for narcotics and other times for educational purposes. Avalon always loved going to the elementary schools the most. She loved the young students and the attention they gave her. I can roughly estimate that she has demonstrated finding hidden narcotics in front of at least 2,000 students.

Avalon was excited to go to work. When I would start putting on my uniform and gear, she would head to the door ready to go. She had far more “drive,” as we call it, than I ever had. She also liked to keep me on my toes. There was the occasional foot pursuit of a deer or rabbit. Thankfully, I was usually the only witness to those encounters.

I would like to acknowledge the following people for their years of support and trust in our partnership: Escambia County Sheriff Grover Smith and Chief Deputy Mike Lambert; Atmore Police Chief (Ret.) Jason Dean; Atmore Director of Public Safety (Ret.) Glenn Carlee; and the many narcotic agents, investigators, officers/deputies/troopers who called for our assistance. A special thank you to Dr. Tommy Moore and the terrific staff at Atmore Animal Hospital (Primary Care) and Dr. John Bagwell and the great staff at Brewton Animal Hospital.

To Susie Rogers and Wayne Gulsby of the ECSO (Fla.) and Randy Rickard of the Pensacola P.D., I appreciate your years of instruction, patience and wisdom. You guys are the best! Thank you Avalon for your love, loyalty and kindness.

Get some rest girl. I love you.