Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Dogs in Training to Fill Void Left by Slain K-9 Partners

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Dogs in Training to Fill Void Left by Slain K-9 Partners

Article excerpt

At a glance, he looks like a gentle, playful German shepherd, gnawing on a squeaky toy.

But at the command of his handler, Zorro is racing 30 mph toward a man with a gun Jacksonville police officers are chasing. The 75-pound dog jumps toward the man -- an officer posing as an armed criminal -- and latches onto his arm until Officer J.J. Thurne tells him to release.

The 2 1/2-year-old in training lets go as quickly as he grabbed hold.

"He has a dual personality," Thurne said of his new partner. "He's kind of like a child. He wants to do his very best."

That best will be put to the test tonight as Thurne and his new partner hit the streets downtown -- the first time the officer has been on patrol since he lost his first K-9 partner and part of a finger during a struggle with a Duval County jail escapee.

It was late June 16 when Quanto was shot and killed and Thurne was shot in the hand as he and Quanto wrestled with Gary Neil, who was later sentenced to life in prison.

Outraged at the first Jacksonville police dog to be killed in the line of duty, the community began a memorial fund to help the Sheriff's Office replace Quanto.

But less than three weeks later, the Sheriff's Office lost another police dog. This time, Titan was shot during a traffic stop in Argyle Forest. His handler, Officer Ed Sullivan, wasn't injured.

"It's tough having to go through all that stuff," Sullivan said, "then have to bond with a new dog."

After the shootings, the Quanto memorial fund continued to grow and earn enough money to buy the Sheriff's Office four new police dogs.

Zorro and Tiko, Sullivan's new police dog, are gifts to the officers who lost their partners this summer and come just in time for the holidays.

"It's a good Christmas present," Thurne said.

But Thurne's return to the street with Zorro didn't come easy. …

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