K-9 Officer Rocky rode in the backseat of his partner’s vehicle for nearly a decade. University Police said goodbye to him as he moved into retirement May 14.
Rocky, a 10-year-old German shepherd, had been working with his partner, Officer Sam Sexton, for eight and a half years.
Sexton made the decision in November to eventually retire Rocky from service in order to not exhaust him physically as he became older. Rocky was the department’s third K-9 and the oldest on the team at the time of his retirement.
“Rocky has done everything I’ve ever asked him to do, every time, without fail, perfectly,” Sexton said.
Rocky is an Explosive Ordnance Detection K-9 who served to find any explosive material that could cause harm to the campus or students, Sexton said. The K-9 Unit’s primary function is inspecting venues for large events, such as football games, before they take place.
Sexton said the team also responded to any bomb threats in the city or county that got called into the department. They worked 12-hour shifts together with Rocky riding in the vehicle behind Sexton’s shoulder.
“I can easily say I spend more time with Rocky than I spend with anybody in my entire family,” Sexton said. “You’re with your working K-9 partner much more than you are with your children, with your spouse. It’s a very unique position to be in.”
Rocky was a well-known officer throughout Gainesville and Alachua County, Sexton said. He and Rocky have gone to elementary schools throughout the county to conduct demonstrations, answer questions and allow children to pet and interact with Rocky.
During the demonstrations, Sexton used a piece of training material that contained the ingredients of explosives Rocky was trained to look for and about five 2-gallon buckets with holes in the lid. The training material is placed in one of the buckets, which are then shuffled around for Rocky, who sniffed out the material every time.
“He’s been fantastic,” said Officer Dale Holmes, who works on the K-9 Unit with his partner Boomer, a black Labrador retriever. “He’s the most consistent dog out there.”
Rocky is now fully retired and adjusting to his new life as a pet and staying home, while Sexton goes to work every day. Sexton said the transition has been difficult for both him and Rocky.
“I’ve had a few days where I’m struggling, you know, him not being in the vehicle behind my shoulder, just about 24 inches behind me,” Sexton said. “The routine has been so specific and so exact for nearly a decade.”
Sexton said the plan is for him to continue in the K-9 department, and he is currently in the process of looking for another dog to work with.
“I’m trying to find the perfect dog to follow Rocky,” Sexton said. “It’s going to be big shoes to fill for whatever dog I find.”