New twist for K-9 Oliver: Well earned retirement

K-9 Oliver is trading in his badge and the beat for a comfy spot on the floor in front of the TV. For the last eight years, Oliver has been a K-9 Officer Will Harris’ side, tracking bad guys and sniffing out guns and explosives.

Last week, his tour of duty with the Port St. Lucie Police Department ended.

“He’s definitely put his time in,” Officer Harris said of his sidekick. At 9 years old, the K-9 is starting to show his age. He sleeps more deeply. He moves a little more slowly.

“They age so quickly,” Harris said, adding that he’s been seeing the signs of Oliver’s impending retirement, though it’s been hard to process.

“It sinks in in the small moments. It’s overwhelming. He goes everywhere with me.”

Heading home from work after his last run, it really sunk in for Harris, who said it’s difficult “without getting super-emotional.”

K-9 Oliver has been instrumental in a number of cases, including tracking down homicide suspects a few years ago in Fort Pierce.

The Port St. Lucie Police Department has an interagency agreement with Fort Pierce and the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, among others, to provide assistance when requested. Fort Pierce called out for K-9 help – and Ofc. Harris and K-9 Oliver responded.

A person was killed walking to a McDonald’s to report for work. K-9 Oliver, working backward from the murder, was able to track the suspect back to a house where he was apprehended.

“That was a pretty big deal,” Harris said.

The team has sniffed out the Super Bowl, areas where visiting dignitaries – including U.S. presidents – will be, spring training for the New York Mets, and other big events.

K-9 Oliver has certifications that include those from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and other agencies.

“He’s a pretty well papered animal,” Harris said.

K-9 Oliver was the agency’s explosive ordinance detection (EOD) officer – something the Port St. Lucie Police Department has not had to worry about much. Instead, his work was more preventative, clearing areas of concern. However, because of the similar chemical components between explosives and guns, K-9 Oliver did help find guns that authorities were searching for.

Harris recalled a drive-by shooting that occurred several months ago that they worked. A couple days after the incident, Oliver sniffed out and alerted to two guns involved. Those guns were recovered and taken into evidence.

Oliver is the second explosive ordinance detection K-9 the department has had, replacing Harris’ first dog, Marco.

“Marco never retired well,” Harris said, explaining that Marco’s health issued devolved to a point where he had to retire early. He and Oliver didn’t get along – like “oil and water.”

Marco passed in August 2016.

Oliver is transitioning into his newest role – family companion. Harris’ kids are taking over the bulk of Oliver’s care, taking him on walks, feeding him, loving on him.

“It was a little awkward at first,” Harris said of handing off Oliver to the kids, who range in age from 7 to 18. When the kids first tried to walk Oliver, he just sat there, looking at his partner in wonderment.

But now, he jumps up and is eager to go with the kids, according to Harris. “He’s got a new role.”

It will take time before the Port St. Lucie Police Department has a new EOD K-9 in its ranks.

The department will be acquiring a new K-9 soon and then it’ll be nearly 16 weeks before that K-9 will be fully trained.

In the meantime, according to Harris, other agencies – such as the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office – will step up and assist PSL police as the need arises.

“Trust and loyalty” are two factors that the K-9/Officer relationship is based on. “He will adapt and trust the situation because that’s the relationship we have,” Harris said.

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