MONTAGUE — After seven years of sniffing out drugs and tracking down suspects, K-9 Sunny will enjoy his golden years as a full-time family pet.
The German shepherd retired from the Montague Police Department Monday following a unanimous vote from the Selectboard as Acting Police Chief Christopher Williams, Sunny and his handler Officer John Dempsey looked on.
Sunny is 9 years old and is trained in narcotics detection, tracking and evidence recovery. Dempsey said the K-9 had numerous narcotics finds and tracked suspects associated with a stolen motor vehicle for more than a mile in Northfield, among other accomplishments.
“In his older years, he located evidence from a breaking and entering case, buried in the local park,” Dempsey said. “He also located $2,600 stashed under a foundation during a foot chase.”
Sunny’s retirement ends Dempsey’s career as a K-9 officer. He spent four years in the Air Force working with explosive detection dogs and the past 22 years in Montague handling K-9 dogs.
“This is the end of my K-9 career,” Dempsey said. “It’s with a heavy heart, because I’ve done it for so long.”
He said he will be busy as an acting sergeant, and Sunny will be at home with Dempsey’s wife, Tina, their two Labrador retrievers, Madison and Varitek, and a cat, Rosie.
“The joke among my friends and me is when we die, we want to come back as one of Tina’s pets,” Dempsey said.
The life cycle of a police dog is dependent upon the dog, according to Dempsey, and K-9s usually retire at 8 to 11 years old.
Dempsey said he came to the Selectboard because he needed a letter acknowledging Sunny’s retirement to apply to Project K-9 Hero. The nonprofit helps offset costs of medical care, food and end-of-duty costs for retired K-9 and military working dogs.
There will still be a K-9 program running at the department with K-9 Artie and Officer Jim Ruddock, according to Dempsey.
“We’re also going to look at doing some fundraisers through the police association just to have in the bank in case something major were to happen to (Sunny),” Dempsey said. “That money would stay there for the next dog and the other police dog in the department.”
Selectman Michael Nelson said he not only wanted to recognize Sunny’s work, but the work of Dempsey and the rest of the department.
“Not only ‘thank you’ to Sunny, but ‘thank you’ to you guys and all your work training and taking care of him all these years,” Nelson said.