Posted on 14 September 2012.
His Tragic Passing
Mendocino County K9 police dog “Morgan” died last month at a Northern California training facility during an exercise designed to train the dog to sniff out narcotics. Morgan was the newest member of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office canine corps.
The MCSO sent out the following announcement on Tuesday:
On August 20th, 2012, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) K-9 “Morgan” died at a facility operated by the department’s contract K-9 trainer. He was engaged in narcotics detection training with his handler at the time he began to shows signs of distress. In the time it took for his handler to describe the animal’s symptoms to a veterinarian, Morgan had passed away. It is suspected that he died from an accidental ingestion of methamphetamine.
Morgan, a 15-month-old German Shepherd that had been imported from the Czech Republic, went into service with the department on February 12, 2012 and was assigned to Deputy Sheriff Joey DeMarco. He was being trained for patrol work and detection of methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, cocaine and MDMA.
Deputy DeMarco is one of the most experienced K-9 handlers in the department and has been a leader in the MCSO K-9 Unit since its inception over 20 years ago. Morgan was not only a part of the MCSO family, but a treasured member of the DeMarco family as well. Deputy DeMarco is coping with the loss given how fast he bonded with his K-9 partner.
Morgan is the first MCSO K-9 Deputy to die in either a training accident or field deployment since the origination of the Mendocino MCSO K-9 Program in the 1980s. The training methods used had been in place for over twenty-five years without incident.
Sheriff Allman has ordered a review of MCSO K-9 training protocols and is committed to ensuring the safety of our service dogs.
Morgan will be remembered as courageous, loving and loyal.
So what happened?
Morgan bit into a container that held methamphetamine during his training.
“It was believed the dog died from accidentally eating methamphetamine after his teeth punctured a training tool containing the drug,” MCSO spokesman Capt. Kurt Smallcomb said.
“He had lots of promise. The department is in negotiations with its K-9 program vendor in an effort to replace Morgan,” Smallcomb said.
Morgan died in the quick time it took his handler, Mendocino County deputy Joey DeMarco, to immediately call and describe the dog’s symptoms to a veterinarian. Like humans, but having less body weight for ingestion, methamphetamine poisoning in dogs results in abnormal respiratory and heart rhythyms, muscle tremors, seizures, circulatory collapse, and death.
Morgan was in his first week of a three-week training course near the Oregon border when he showed signs of ‘distress’ during the training exercise, the Sheriff’s Office said. They were in training with CJ’s Police K9s when Morgan died. The company’s owner could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reported.
Morgan was purchased through a donation from Mendocino County resident Morgan Ruddick, seen here in the picture on the right. He joined Joey DeMarco’s family after the December retirement of Barry, DeMarco’s previous canine partner for seven years.
DeMarco bought Barry from the Sheriff’s Office for $1 after retirement and will keep him at his home for as long as he lives. Morgan would have done the same. Canine partners live with their assigned deputy– even after their retirement.
A young K9 dog with the appropriate temperament and physical condition before training will cost at least $8,500. A fully trained dog can cost $25,000. The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office currently has six dogs on the force, including one in the jail, and a bloodhound.
The MCSO program concentrates on starting out with young dogs under a year old. Most K-9s are males, as they are typically more aggressive. DeMarco’s first K-9, however, a female named Wera, was an exception to that rule. DeMarco and Wera both started at the Willits Police Department before moving together to the Sheriff’s Office.
Morgan is the first Mendocino County Sheriff’s dog to die on duty since the county initiated a canine program more than 20 years ago, officials said. Others have died in retirement.
Morgan wasn’t the first police dog to die of a drug overdose. A Belgian Malinois named Viper died last year when he ripped open a package of cocaine during a drug bust in North Carolina. Statistics are not available, but news reports from across the country indicate that a majority of on-duty police dog deaths stem from being left in vehicles on hot days.
Losing Morgan was a heartbreaking tragedy for Officer DeMarco. Both a working partner and a loved member of the family, Morgan, like any other canine, bonds with its owner/handler—and vice versa.
Cards and letters of support came into the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office following the news:
My heart goes out to Deputy Sheriff Joey DeMarco. I’m so sorry for the loss of your partner. Such a tragic accident. Big guy didn’t know his own strength. RIP Morgan.
I heard about this at work and we’re very, very sorry for your loss. My friend, you know how I feel about you and Morgan. I know you will be teamed up real soon with another great canine partner and as usual with be a great asset to the team and the community.
Oh Joey, I am so sorry. My heart goes out to you and family. I know how much it hurts, trust me. Good partners are so hard to find, even when they are man’s best friend too. Prayers to you, Brother.
I feel like I have been socked in the stomach. How terrible for everyone. I am so sorry this happened. Rest in peace, Morgan, duty and honor until the very end. Morgan was a GREAT asset to the County & his capabilities will be missed.
Joey I don’t know what happened but I can see you lost your best man. Healing prayers to you my friend. Just a month ago you were helping my daughter and her husband with their dog. You are a special guy.
I’m sure Kilo and other K9s were there to greet Morgan. Forever memories.
Coming back from training must have been the longest drive for Joey DeMarco.
The hardest is knowing you lost your friend and partner and a member of the family.
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A Dog’s Prayer:
Treat me kindly, my beloved master, for no heart in all the world is more grateful for kindness than the loving heart of me.
Do not break my spirit with a stick, for though I should lick your hand between the blows, your patience and understanding will more quickly teach me the things you would have me do.
Speak to me often, for your voice is the world’s sweetest music, as you must know by the fierce wagging of my tail when your footsteps falls upon my waiting ear.
When it is cold and wet, please take me inside, for I am now a domesticated animal, no longer used to bitter elements. And I ask no greater glory than the privilege of sitting at your feet beside the hearth. Though had you no home, I would rather follow you through ice and snow than rest upon the softest pillow in the warmest home in all the land, for you are my god and I am your devoted worshiper.
Keep my pan filled with fresh water, for although I should not reproach you were it dry, I cannot tell you when I suffer thirst. Feed me clean food, that I may stay well, to romp and play and do your bidding, to walk by your side, and stand ready, willing and able to protect you with my life should your life be in danger.
And, beloved master, should the great Master see fit to deprive me of my health, do not turn me away from you.
Rather hold me gently in your arms as skilled hands grant me the merciful boon of eternal rest–and I will leave you knowing with the last breath I drew, my fate was ever safest in your hands.
~Beth Norman Harris