ASHEBORO — The Randolph County Sheriff’s Office lost one of its officers last week.
Dan, a bloodhound with the K-9 Unit, died after a large tumor was found in his abdomen. He was just 4 years old.
Dep. Randall Purvis was his handler for nearly three years and he talked about his time with Dan.
“Dan and his brother Odie were donated by Hockett Dairy,” Purvis said. The two dogs were trained extensively for three months before being allowed to track real cases.
Purvis said the dogs picked up tracking pretty quickly, running a half-mile trail their first day of training. They continued to train for 16 hours a month through woods, fields, parking lots and roadways, he said.
With K-9 Unit dogs, Purvis said, training is continuous, allowing the animals to retain their skills. He said cases often come in spurts, but the busiest times are during warmer weather when people are more likely to be doing outdoor activities such as hiking.
“We do about 30 tracks a year,” said Purvis. “Dan probably did 90 tracks in real life.”
Dan had a unique personality, his handler said. “He was more playful than Odie. He was like a puppy and he never met a stranger.”
For that reason, Dan was taken to public events, such as at schools, where children liked to play with him. And he was more than willing to play back.
Purvis said Dan liked tracking deer and would often want to veer off a run when he picked up a deer scent. But it was his friendliness that set him apart.
“The funniest thing happened on his first real-life track,” Purvis said.
They were called to track a suspect who had stolen a car and was involved in a chase. The suspect parked the car and ran off into some woods.
The trackers found the suspect near a creek, where he was captured and handcuffed.
“We were standing around talking when we saw Dan licking the guy,” Purvis said. “Dan wanted to play with everybody.”
Dan’s eating habits provided Purvis clues that something wasn’t right.
“He would eat anything, but Taco Bell was his favorite,” Purvis said. “He also liked sausage biscuits.
“For about a week and a half, he wasn’t eating right, leaving some of his dog food in his bowl,” Purvis said, thinking at the time that Dan was just upset about changing vehicles.
Then Purvis came to work after a few days off and “saw Dan’s ribs poking out. I took him to the vet.”
The veterinarian tested Dan for parasites but the tests came back negative. Then the vet felt a mass in Dan’s stomach and an X-ray showed a tumor.
They decided to do exploratory surgery on Dan to remove the tumor. But when the vet went in, he found that the tumor was much larger than expected and wrapped around Dan’s kidneys and spleen. To remove it, Purvis said, would cause Dan to bleed to death.
So the decision was made to put Dan down. He was buried at Purvis’ house. Sheriff Robert Graves and Maj. Bernie Maness were in attendance.
A radio operator honored Dan by calling his number and checking him off for the last time.
“I still want to be in the K-9 Unit if they get another dog,” said Purvis, noting that Dan was his first K-9 dog. When that happens, Purvis will go train with that dog for a period of time until they’re ready for real-life cases.
But he said he can wait a little while. “I don’t want to start this week.”
Let Dan’s memory fade just a bit.