Trotting in circles around Officer Eric Kent before moving onto another important task – running over to Tustin Police Department employees to encourage them to play tug – Tustin PD K9 Roky is a one-dog show.
More than once, Kent chuckled at the 62-pound, fawn-colored Belgian Malinois’ antics. It’s a nice counterbalance to the sadness of the agency’s recent loss of Roky’s predecessor, Dutch shepherd Riggs, who was put down in January after a diagnosis of bone cancer at the age of 7.
“He was a great dog,” Kent said of his partner of four years. “Acted like he was a puppy ’til the day he died.”
The job of K9 officer carries a great deal of perks for an animal lover like Kent, who now has four dogs at home, including retired Tustin PD K9 Belgian Malinois Ari, as well as Roky and two Labradors.
“This is probably the best position I could ask for,” Kent said.
But losing a dog is never easy.
“You grow such a bond with these dogs,” Kent said. “It’s tough losing a partner.”
Fortunately, the energetic Roky (pronounced roe-kee) is keeping Kent busy – and smiling.
“You’re such a spaz,” Kent says to Roky affectionately during an attempt at having their photo taken. Roky insisted on jumping up and giving Kent several licks to the face.
After Riggs’ passing, the K9 position had to be filled quickly considering he was one of only two police dogs at the agency. Kent brought Roky home a few weeks later and soon began five weeks of training. Though right now he’s strictly a suspect apprehension dog, the department hopes to eventually train Roky as a narcotics detection dog.
Quite the character in personality, Roky is also distinctive in appearance. The tip of his right ear is missing. Kent doesn’t know what happened, but he figures it’ll add to the police dog’s mystique.
“He’s already got some street credit,” Kent joked.
His first day of patrol was March 12 and he continues to entertain Kent.
“He’s a little nut,” Kent said as 2-year-old Roky excitedly played with his jute toy. “He’s a puppy.”
At the same time, Kent remembers Riggs fondly. The successful K9 tallied four suspect apprehensions, close to 100 surrenders, and more than 100 pounds of narcotics.
“He was pretty good at it,” Kent said.
Like Roky, Riggs had a playful side.
“He was a big ham,” Kent said. “He was a big baby, but when the time came to work, he wanted to find who he needed to find.”
Watching Roky at play, Kent knows that despite the deep sorrow of losing Riggs, life must go on. And he’s glad he has Roky to help him through that.
“It definitely helped keep my mind off it for sure,” he said.
Roky, oblivious to his surroundings for the time being, lay on the ground of the agency’s back lot, slobber dripping out of one side of his mouth while gnawing on his toy.