- Associated Press - Monday, March 7, 2016

MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala. (AP) - Zeus still is not sure what to think about retirement. Most days, when the nearly 8-year-old German Shepherd sees Muscle Shoals Police Officer Eric Kelley leaving the house, the dog wants to go with his handler.

“He doesn’t understand why he can’t go,” Kelley said. “He can’t stand it.”

Kelley was Zeus’ partner for a year and a half before the canine retired earlier this year, the result of a nagging foot injury and the onset of arthritis. He was the best partner, Kelley said.

“It’s really amazing to see a dog’s work ethic,” Kelley said. “There is not a time that he gets up and doesn’t want to go to work. When it comes to finding drugs, he’s one of the best I know of, but his favorite is patrol work. He just has a knack for it.”

Kelley is in his fifth year as a police officer, and Zeus is his first canine partner.

“He knows what every function in the car means,” Kelley said. “If I’m going to stop a vehicle, and he hears the switch to activate the lights, he knows what that means. He gets up and starts whining, even though it’s most likely not something he needs to be out on.”

Chases really get the dog excited.

“He gets so hyped up because he knows what’s going on, and he’ll start biting at the divider between me and him,” Kelley said.

In retirement, Kelley said he wants to give Zeus time to “just be a dog.” The city is working through the steps that allow Zeus to leave city ownership and become Kelley’s personal dog.

Kelley hopes to set up some A-frames and jumps on his property that will replicate the agility training Zeus loved.

“Hopefully, having some land he can run around on will help him adjust,” Kelley said. “I’m a big animal lover, and to me, it’s all about his well-being and letting him just be a dog.”

Zeus is a dual-purpose police dog, meaning he was used in drug searches and also on patrol for apprehension. Police Chief Robert Evans said the department’s next dog also will be a dual-purpose dog.

The department, Evans said, will use Huntsville Police Department to help procure the next dog, and train and certify the dog and handler. Evans said the dog will cost between $8,000 and $10,000. The training provided by Huntsville Police is done at no cost to the local department.

Evans said that process won’t start until late April or early May because Huntsville Police Department is in the middle of a certification course now.

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Information from: TimesDaily, https://www.timesdaily.com/

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