There wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd Thursday when Converse County Sheriff’s K-9 Officer Trigger received his final call.
Residents from across the county, including dozens of children, stood with law enforcement officers as deputies carried the canine’s flag-draped casket out of the veterinarian’s office where Trigger had died from cancer.
The beloved K-9 will be greatly missed, Cpl. Mark Dexter, Trigger’s handler, said Tuesday.
And the loss will be as keenly felt by Trigger’s law enforcement family as it will by members of the community who helped bring him to Douglas.
Trigger has been with the department since April 2014, after CCSO presented the idea of starting a K-9 unit. The department didn’t have funding for the program, Dexter said, so it reached out to the community for donations.
The response was overwhelming.
“Within a couple weeks, we had way more than I ever needed for the canine program donated to us,” he said. “From parents that gave us their last $5 for the month all the way up to big businesses that donated thousands of dollars. It was pretty amazing.”
In total, he thinks somewhere around $50,000 was donated. Enough for Dexter, who was chosen by the department to be the handler for the new program, to bring an 18-month-old Belgian Malinois back to Douglas.
It was local elementary school children who chose the name Trigger and they received frequent visits from the dog at school assemblies and community events throughout his career.
The community’s generosity didn’t end there. Over the last several years, the donations continued to pour in, from checks from residents and businesses made out to Trigger to free food, heavily discounted vet bills, grooming and more.
He was definitely the community’s K-9, and with good reason.
Trigger earned his keep.
With an ability to detect up to five different drug odors, Trigger was dispatched anywhere from 100 to 150 times per year.
Dexter has no idea how many pounds of drugs Trigger took off the streets during his career. He estimated Dexter was responsible for the seizure of $500,000 to $1 million worth of drugs each year.
“Not bad for one dog,” Dexter said.
The two spent a lot of time training, Dexter said, and were constant companions, with Trigger living with in the family’s heated garage.
Trigger wasn’t given treats or even allowed to come inside until the last weeks of his life this fall, when his cancer grew increasingly worse. That’s when all of the rules went out the door as Dexter’s wife Tanisha and children fed him plenty of dog snacks which, as it turned out, Trigger quite liked.
Along with his family and the community, the sheriff’s department is taking Trigger’s loss hard. He was like a partner, Dexter said. The pair spent a lot of time together, and Dexter said he shared a lot of secrets with his partner.
For now, Dexter is waiting until the new year before he starts looking around for a new K-9. He wants to take a little time to let everyone grieve and get through the holidays.
“He was a good dog,” he said.