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Retired K-9 bonds with adopted family
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Dawn Garcia and her children, Cayden, 12, Alexsandra, 10, and Arianna, 9, adopted retired K-9 Max, whom they now call “Super Max.” - photo by Denise Etheridge

Max was lean and fit when still on duty with the Liberty County Sheriff’s Department. He worked out regularly and ate only healthy meals, except for the occasional pizza crust which he would snatch from the hand of a human colleague.

Max is a retired K-9 officer who was recently adopted by the Garcia family of Jesup. He paid a visit to his law enforcement brothers earlier this month, so they could see how well he has adjusted to civilian life.

One K-9 officer joked about the pounds 9-year old Max has put on – as he now weighs at least 92 pounds –  commenting that the former hardworking K-9 must be enjoying retirement, vegging on the couch and getting treats. Another officer observed how protective Max appeared to be of his new family. Max’s new owners are Army veterans Martin and Dawn Garcia, and their three children, Cayden, 12, Alexsandra, 10, and Arianna, 9. The Garcias also have a 3-year old service dog named Pepper. Max and Pepper are both German shepherds. The LCSO has trained German shepherds, Belgian Malinois and a mix of the two dog breeds for K-9 duty.

Dawn Garcia said Max makes an excellent watchdog, and loves to play ball. “He took possession of the kids’ soccer ball when we first got him,” she said. Garcia added that Max often makes a place for himself in bed with her and the children.

Sgt. Cory Nadeau, one of Max’s former handlers, said prior to Max being adopted by the Garcia family, the working dog’s previous interaction with people was restricted to LCSO K-9 handlers. Nadeau explained that the K-9 dogs used to be housed in an air-conditioned kennel by the Liberty County Jail. Now, the dogs go home with their handlers, he said.

“When they’re at home, they’re a dog, they get to play. And when they come to work, it’s a 180. They put on their game face, if you will,” Nadeau said.

According to Nadeau, the unit contacted Patricia Durham, founder and CEO of K-9 Battle Buddies, advising that Max would make a good companion or service dog when he began to slow down and show signs he was ready to retire. Durham then suggested the Garcia family might make a good fit as an adoptive family for Max, he said.

“Max is the first dog adopted out of the agency,” Nadeau said. Another former K-9, Donna, now lives in Long County with her retired K-9 handler, he added.

Nadeau stressed he would like the community to understand that K-9s are “good animals” and are not out to harm anyone. He said the LCSO K-9 unit is happy to demonstrate what these dogs can do, to educate the public about their intensive training and amazing skills. Nadeau and his fellow handlers have spoken to schools, churches and civic organizations about the vital role K-9s perform when tracking and apprehending criminals or searching for narcotics.

The LCSO K-9 unit works closely with their counterparts on Fort Stewart and neighboring counties, including Long, Bryan and McIntosh, according to Nadeau. He added that he and other K-9 handlers appreciate the work K-9 Battle Buddies do for veterans, by rescuing dogs and training them as service animals, and are grateful to organizations like Carpathia Paws pet rescue for donating bullet-proof vests to LCSO K-9 officers.

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