By RYAN DUNN
If anyone could sense a problem with police dog Becky, it was Fred Smith.
Becky started eating less, moving slower and struggling to catch her breath.
The different look in her eyes suggested something was not right, said Smith, Becky’s handler for the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office.
“Whenever I got her out, she took a couple steps and kind of just laid down,” Smith said.
Smith carried Becky to the veterinarian, who discovered a ruptured tumor in her spleen.
Surgery could not guarantee a cure because of her age and the damage that already had been done, Smith said.
“Even then, she wouldn’t be like she was,” Smith said. “It’d be hard for her, I would think, because she wouldn’t be able to return to duty and do things like she’s used to.”
Smith had her put down on Jan. 13. He called it one of his toughest decisions.
Over eight-and-a-half years, Becky, who lived to be 10, totaled 600 calls, including criminal cases and public demonstrations.
Becky’s efforts were vital in many drug cases. In 2007, she alerted Smith to 543 pounds of marijuana inside a tractor-trailer near Bluffton.
She helped uncover a theft ring that spanned several states because of a traffic stop. Smith searched a car to discover bags of money and maps with notes on them, he said.
Children were enamored of her during demonstrations, Smith said.
Becky’s outgoing nature made her one of the office’s most visible employees, Smith said.
Smith said he saw Becky more than his co-workers and family members. His wife and children adored her as well, he said.
“The more you spend time with that dog, the more you trust her with just about anything,” Smith said.
Kevin, the sheriff office’s other police dog, is 7 years old. He remains active, but may be limited after a few more years of work, said Sheriff Michael Heldman.
Purchasing and training a new dog costs about $10,000. New equipment reaches about $3,000, Heldman said.
Those interested in donating toward a new police dog can contact the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation, he said.
“Personally, I’d like to see some overlap between when Kevin retires and the new dog comes on, to work and train together,” Heldman said.
Becky will stay with the Smith family after Coldren-Crates Funeral Home cremated her. No additional services have been planned yet, he said.
Smith praised Becky as a loyal police dog who was excited for each call, even when he was not.
“She always wanted to please … and do what you ask her,” Smith said.