Darrell Shaffer notices the silence in his squad car.
When the Dyer police officer glances toward the backseat, he expects to see his partner, Eddy, there. But the retired police dog doesn’t come to work anymore, and Shaffer misses him.
“I would talk to him and he would listen,” Shaffer said. “He would just stand there and listen. That is the weirdest part — looking back there and not seeing him.”
Eddy, 11, is scheduled to be euthanized Monday.
The duo worked street patrol and special investigations together for more than nine years as part of the East Chicago Police Department’s K-9 unit.
The bomb and gun dog retired from daily patrols when Shaffer was hired in Dyer two years ago.
Lately, the German shepherd has been having trouble moving, and veterinarians found a tumor in his hindquarters that makes it painful for him to stand.
It’s hard for Shaffer to watch as the dog struggles to walk each day. After all, Eddy once thrived by chasing alleged criminals through the streets of East Chicago on foot.
The dog boasts more than 50 criminal suspect apprehensions while responding to more than 820 calls for service throughout his career. He also recovered 78 weapons and detailed several airplanes for presidential families, Shaffer said.
Shaffer attended a training session in 2004 at Landheim Kennels in Dyer hoping to choose a dog to bring to the East Chicago police team.
Eddy had been flown in from Germany and was trained to work. But after he bit one officer during the training, other handlers were skeptical of choosing him for a partner. But when Shaffer stepped up, Eddy listened.
“There were four bomb dog guys that were in class, and he wouldn’t listen to any of them,” Shaffer said. “I remember I gave him the command for sit and he did it.”
From that moment on, an unbreakable bond was formed. Eddy was good at listening to Shaffer and has the awards to prove it. The dog earned more than 30 awards while competing in the K-9 Olympics seven times.
Shaffer’s wife, Brandi Shaffer, said she's heartbroken as she helps her husband cope with letting the dog go.
The weekend was difficult for Shaffer. He had to explain to his children that Eddy wouldn’t be living with them anymore.
“The hardest part was having to tell my kids that we have to put him down,” Shaffer said. “That broke my heart more than anything. They don’t understand. They think he can stay around forever.”
So they decided as a family that Eddy’s last days would be filled with his favorite things. He gnawed on tennis balls in the family room and was treated to a feast of hot dogs.
Eddy had a keen sense for processed meat. No matter where he was in the Shaffer house, if he smelled hot dogs being cooked, he would bolt like a bullet toward the kitchen to beg.
“Brandi would cook hot dogs for the kids and there he would be, standing right at the stove saying, ‘I know there are hot dogs up there,'” Shaffer said. “Every time I look at hot dogs I’m going to think of him.”
Shaffer isn't sure if another dog is in his future.
“Looking at the heartache I’m feeling, if you were to ask me right now, I’d say no,” he said. “In a year that answer could change, but it’s hard to say right now."