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Elvis has left the building

K9 retires from Lexington Police Department

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 28, 2015) — He doesn’t get a pension, but after six years of service tracking down drugs, he does get a fireplace and a cozy lap to lay his head in. This past fall, at age 6, Elvis the police dog retired from the Lexington Police Department.

ShowImage.aspxElvis got his name from his first handler officer Marshall Stilner, who had a sense of humor when naming the dog. When a dog enters a building on assignment, the call goes out “K-9 has entered the building.” Stilner thought it would be funny to also have to say, “Elvis has left the building” over the radio.

After Stilner retired, Elvis worked with officer Courtney Komara, then officer Derek Smith and then his final handler officer Jack Hoskins.

While Hoskins was Elvis’ last handler, Elvis was Hoskins’ first dog.

“I wanted to be a handler because I love working with dogs. A dog is the only thing on the planet that loves you more than itself,” he said. “It was fun working with Elvis.”

In March Elvis assisted the DEA with a search warrant, locating approximately 320 grams of heroin. In December of 2014 he assisted a patrol unit on a traffic stop that led to the discovery of more than $60,000 in cash.

But Elvis was the department’s only single purpose dog, trained in narcotics detection. The other dogs are dual purpose, trained in both detection and patrol (tracking, building searches, apprehension, etc.). And he was getting older. So the decision was made to retire Elvis.

While they all wanted to, none of his previous handlers could take him in. One had moved out of state, others already had multiple dogs at home.

So where should he go?

Elvis and Chris Lt. Chris Van Brackel were in a Special Operations Section meeting when it was mentioned that Elvis would be retiring and needed a home. Van Brackel volunteered right away to take the dog.

“For six years, he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do,” Van Brackel said. “But the dogs are constantly training and working, there’s not much time for play. I wanted to give him a chance to play.”

First Elvis had to meet Van Brackel’s wife Mary, and their family dog Mia, a lab mix. They all visited together a few times at the Canine Unit Training Facility. The meetings went well. On Oct. 22 resolution 1254-15 was read authorizing “the Mayor, on behalf of the Urban County Government, to execute an Agreement with Christopher Van Brackel, for care of and retirement of the canine Elvis.” And with that, Elvis was headed to his new home.

It was the first time anyone could remember a dog not going to its handler.

Elvis’ second handler, Officer Komara, was excited that the Van Brackels were adopting him. She shared tips with Van Brackel about his personality and his favorite food. (It’s Chic-fil-A.)

“He didn’t bark for the first three weeks when we brought him home,” Van Brackel said.

Elvis had lived most of his life with the other dogs in the canine unit at the kennel on Old Frankfort Pike. So now he is working on learning boundaries and getting house-trained. He loves playing with his Kong. And watching him, it seems he could play fetch with it until the end of time.

“He’s kind of turning back into a dog,” Van Brackel said.

While reading Elvis’ vet records, Lt. Van Brackel discovered he shares an Aug. 12 birthday with the German Shepard. Maybe next year they will share a piece of cake when the day rolls around.

The canine unit still has nine other dogs working. They stay busy with their handlers protecting the citizens of Lexington. Elvis, in the mean time, will spend his days “running like crazy” with Mia in the back yard.