The Placer County Sheriff’s Office waved a tearful goodbye Monday to a long-time friend and co-worker. Chopper, the department’s longest living K-9, passed away at age16.
“We were his pack,” said Chopper’s owner and handler Correctional Officer Stacey Toy, who was by her partner’s side when he was euthanized. “He cared for us, and we cared for him.”
Over 50 human officers and 8 K-9 officers gathered to celebrate Chopper’s life at his send-off service at the Auburn Jail Monday. Attendees saluted Chopper as he was carried on a gurney by Placer County Sheriff Honor Guard Deputy Ron Evans and Jamie DeNardi, Toy’s husband, before heading to the veterinary clinic. On a nearby table, sat a basket of apples in honor of his love of the fruit.
The German shepherd mix was euthanized after the send-off due to serious complications from a form of degenerative myopathy, a painful and debilitating condition.
“I wanted him to go out with dignity and respect,” Toy said. “That was really important. You have to honor them as much as they honor you.”
Toy joined the unit in 1996, and Chopper joined the team in 2000. They worked side by side at the Auburn Jail for 12 years.
“When I got ready to work, he got ready work,” Toy said. “We worked night shifts, day shifts, we did it all. … There was really no time he spent away from me.”
At the jail, Chopper’s presence was enough to calm officers and inmates alike, Toy said. From 2002 to 2004, Chopper was also the office’s only certified narcotics dog.
Chopper retired in 2011 at age 12. But he kept busy with a freelance gig as a security officer for a plumbing company, guarding the box trucks and equipment as employees worked in remote areas.
But Chopper’s definite claim to fame was the 12-year battle he had waged with some well-known villains at the jail.
“Everyone wanted to see Chopper catch the bad guys. And I don’t mean people: I mean the birds,” Toy said.
Birds had a habit of nesting under one of one of the jail’s buildings. Chopper would jump high enough to scare the birds, then run in circles trying to catch them.
People from every department gathered to watch Chopper’s hunt.
Despite trying years of trying “he never caught a single one,” Toy said.