JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A K-9 who gave a decade of his life detecting drugs and getting criminals off the streets has been named a hero by a national non-profit that provides for working dogs when they retire.
He may not be on the street anymore, but K-9 Wannes, an almost 12-year-old Dutch Shepherd, worked around 10 years to keep the streets of Rankin County safe.
When he recently retired, Wannes wanted to keep working, however his hips were aging.
Deputy Chris Picou, who oversees the county’s K-9s, says nonetheless, Wannes is awesome.
“Wannes was an exceptional dog, still is, but as far as his narcotics detection ability, one of the top dogs I’ve seen in my 25-plus years when it came to that,” Picou said. “And his attitude, that dog wanted to work all the time.”
That’s why Picou contacted Project K-9 Hero, a nonprofit that benefits retired working dogs and works solely off donations, when Wannes retired.
After sending in the statistics and stories that make a case for the hero Wannes is, the organization chose him as one of their K-9 heroes.
They pay all his bills in retirement so his handler, Sentel Easterling, can give him a good home for the rest of his life. Currently he’s the only K-9 Hero under that program in the state of Mississippi.
“It’s a good feeling not having to worry about how I’m going to get his bills paid," Easterling said. "Medical bills, food, this organization came in and has been such a blessing to us.”
Picou said it’s the support of Sheriff Bryan Bailey and the Rankin County Board of Supervisors who have helped them build such a strong K-9 corps.
It was for that reason Easterling was able to bring Wannes to Rankin County from Pearl Police Department when he switched agencies. The two had been together too long to get used to new partners.
Wannes still comes to attention when he sees Easterling’s working truck, but his hips just won’t cooperate to get him back into his seat. And after 10 years as partners, it’s a weird feeling to have a different dog next to him, Easterling said.
Easterling is a big guy and a veteran cop, but tears come to his eyes when he thinks about his partner of over a decade being unable to ride along anymore.
“I love being with him, he loves being with me," he said. "Right now he’s older and he wants to do it but his body’s not letting him.”
Each day Easterling gets in the truck to start the day on the road, and while Iwan, his new dog, is learning the ropes, that familiar presence is painfully absent.
“I miss him,” Easterling said.