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published: Sunday, April 14, 2013
HCSO loses one of its top cops
By SCOTT DRESSEL
SEBRING -- He may have been one of the most instantly recognizable members of the Highlands County Sheriff's Office. He was definitely one of the loudest.
Wyatt, a black-and-tan bloodhound who was the senior member of the HCSO's K-9 unit, was put to sleep Tuesday after being diagnosed with a very aggressive tumor. He was escorted to his final resting place at Saunders Veterinary Clinic in Avon Park in fitting fashion, with a parade of deputies up U.S. 27.
"It's just now kind of sinking in that he's not here," Deputy Jake Riley, Wyatt's partner since August 2010, said Friday.
K-9 handlers have a special bond with their dogs, who literally become part of the family and live at the deputy's home.
"They are our partners," Riley said. "Sometimes on a midnight shift when there's nothing going on, you'll catch yourself carrying on a conversation with them. "I've lost pets before, but this is a lot different."
Wyatt, who was 10, had a long career with the HCSO, working with Deputy Chris Gunter starting in 2005 before moving in with Riley. Wyatt's record included 127 trails that led to 55 felony arrests, 43 misdemeanor arrests, 14 missing persons located and 15 other trails that led to the locating stolen property or articles of evidence, the HCSO said.
Wyatt's death came as a shock, since he seemed fine not long ago.
"We noticed he was looking a little sick a week ago," Riley said. The tumor was discovered on Saturday. By Tuesday, Riley said, Wyatt was in such a bad state that the decision was made to end his suffering humanely. He was euthanized at home before taking his final ride with Riley.
Wyatt was a favorite with children, HCSO Public Information Officer Nell Hays wrote in a press release, participating in numerous demonstrations at schools throughout Highlands County. He also participated in crime prevention events and was one of the most popular K-9 members to march in the annual Christmas parades throughout Highlands County, often "singing" throughout the entire route.
"He would do nothing but bay through the whole parade," Riley recalled Friday with a chuckle.
For Riley, the most memorable on-duty moments with Wyatt included a pursuit of two burglary suspects from Hendry County who bailed out of the car in an orange grove near Lake Placid. Wyatt found the first one within two minutes, and tracked the second to within 100 feet before turning the track over to a patrol dog.
Riley also recalled Wyatt finding a Lake Placid woman who had been missing from her home for four hours.
"Every time she would see me after that she would always ask me how Wyatt was doing," Riley said.
"Our deputies are the most amazing men and women I know. Deputy Riley lost his partner and the community lost a protector," Sheriff Susan Benton said in a press release. "There were tears shed as the life drained out of Wyatt, however, everyone was cognizant that we still have big work in front of us and are ready and committed to our vision of 'a safer Highlands County'. Thank you K-9 Wyatt for helping us work towards that vision."
When it comes to the job, Riley said, it's definitely the four-legged member of the pair that's the star.
"It's not the handler that makes or breaks the team, it's the dog. We just happen to be there to help them out."
Riley said he will soon begin working with a new partner, he's sure, but it will be an adjustment.
"I know I'll bond with my new partner, but he'll never be Wyatt. He'll never do the same things. I'm sure we will have memorable catches, but with Wyatt being my first, he's going to be up on a pedestal."
Wyatt (by: Bugaboos - 4/17/2013)
RIP you served well
wyatt;and possible new pup (by: Joy Staton - 4/16/2013)
I hate hearing about an officer loosing his partner... I own a beautiful 9 wk. old GSD puppy...Im looking for a very good home for him. I thought of you cuz I believe he would make a good cop. very strong willed! Maybe your interested? almost all black...and big paws! and beautiful!
Omg! (by: Bunny - 4/15/2013)
I think Wyatt was the dog they brought out to Fairway Pines for the people could see. They loved him.
K9 Wyatt (by: Linda Gough Glandt - 4/15/2013)
Dear Deputy Riley, I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your parter and best friend. He will be greatly missed. He is in heaven now showing all of the other doggies how to track down milk bones instead of criminals. Thank you both for all that you have done to keep our world a safer place.
4 legged tracking machine (by: Blindman~ - 4/15/2013)
and the deputy sang... go ahead boys why don't you run, Wyatt's itchin' to have a little fun, get my light, get my gun, Wyatt'll have ya orange treed before mornin' comes...
Wyatt (by: Brenda Broder - 4/14/2013)
Wyatt was a great dog and will be missed!!! We love you Wyatt!!
Thank you. (by: Jake Riley - 4/14/2013)
Thank you Scott. You did a great job with the article and the lay out in the paper was awesome.
Wyatt (by: Heather Howell - 4/14/2013)
RIP Wyatt and thank you kindly for protecting and serving so many. You will be missed 10-10
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