Members of the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office, along with local police departments, mourn the loss of one of his former K-9s.
The department said K-9 Drago was put to rest this week due to his age and complications from a previous injury. The German Shepherd was associated with Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Beichner from 2011 to 2018 before retiring.
“K-9 Drago has performed well throughout his career, with his remarkable tracking abilities which have helped locate both criminal suspects and vulnerable innocent people,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
Drago had been used as an explosives detection animal in addition to human tracking.
The dog sustained a broken leg during a training exercise in May 2017 and required surgery. The operation, according to Beichner in a February 2018 article in The Post-Journal, did not go as planned and resulted in infection. A second surgery was performed at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine with the aim of cleaning up the infection and repairing the damage caused by the previous procedure.
The sheriff’s office had hoped that the second surgery would repair most of the damage and allow Draco to return to service. However, it later became clear that Draco’s left front leg needed to be amputated.
The procedure took place at the Russell Veterinary Hospital and was considered successful.
“Drago continued to serve as a goodwill ambassador during the K-9 demonstrations”, said the department. “K-9 Drago has always been a favorite of young and old alike who attended the events.
“K-9 Drago will surely be missed and his dedication and sacrifice to the citizens of Chautauqua County will always be remembered.”
Beichner recalled Drago in a post widely shared on social media. He was reading, in part, “I knew that day would come, most of us live it, there are literally books and movies written about it, but when the day comes it still hurts. After an exceptional life, a life of service that enabled others to live thanks to his actions, my spouse, the son before my son, passed away today.
Of choosing Drago as a partner in 2011, he said, “They had 12 dogs ready to choose. It only took one. The minute it was taken out, I felt the connection. It would be Drago, a name given by my then 7-year-old brother, Collin Beichner. The training began shortly thereafter. I cannot begin to estimate the number of hours spent together. It was before I had my kids, so life revolved around training and being together.
Despite the loss of a leg, Beichner said Drago took off.
“I couldn’t believe how well he did”, he wrote. “He went back to limited work, but working, for a few more years. He retired on a high note, or maybe I just see it that way.
“Our last detail together was to do an explosives sweep at Bills Stadium. This balayage was a little different from most. We were asked to sweep a locker room before a Beyoncé concert. Upon entering, I immediately noticed a marked difference in his behavior. No, there was no bomb in the room, but there were more than 20 singers and dancers. Many of them were very happy to see a beautiful three-legged shepherd enter.