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State picks up tab for retired K9 officers

Becky Campbell • Updated Oct 28, 2017 at 10:02 AM

When Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Travis Eggers goes to work these days, he sees his yellow lab, Claymore, in the rear view mirror, sitting on the porch to watch the officer drive away.

Nobody really knows what Claymore might be thinking, but there’s a chance he’s envious that Eggers still gets to go to work while he, retired from his K9 job with the highway patrol, stays home and takes it easy. And taking care of him now will be easier for Eggers after the state legislature passed a bill this summer allotting $85 per month for the upkeep of retired K9s.

As is customary, when Claymore retired, Eggers gained sole custody of the four-legged officer. With that came the cost of routine care, feeding, veterinary visits, treats and toys. As of July, however, Claymore and 16 other retired K9s started drawing what could be considered a retirement check from the state. In reality, it’s an $85 monthly stipend for the handler to provide living necessities for the animal.

“It never crossed my mind for the state to pay any of the bill because he was my dog,” Eggers said. “He was my partner for eight years and the least I could do for him is take care of him the best I could and keep him around for as long as I could.  He is enjoyable ... there’s nothing more loving than a dog.”

But helping bear the cost of Claymore’s last years was also something the state could help with, Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, said.

“These dogs, which are considered full-fledged officers, spent their lives protecting the people of Tennessee,”  Crowe said on Friday. “They perform a range of duties and services humans cannot. It is only right that we help provide for their care when they are retired from service.” 

Claymore was trained in explosive detection and served the community at numerous public events, including Bristol Motor Speedway fall and spring races, the National Hot Rod Association’s Thunder Valley Nationals, during the 2012 presidential debates at Belmont University in Nashville and visits to East Tennessee by President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush.

That dedication to protecting Tennesseans and visitors is part of the reason Crowe and Rep. John Holsclaw, R-Elizabethton, co-sponsored a new law to provide the financial assistance for retired K9s.

“Many of these dogs have health conditions related to the hard work performed in the service to this state,” Holsclaw said. “It is often expensive to care for them as they age and these problems worsen. That expense should not fall on the patrol officer who takes them into their homes after they are retired.”

Eggers said he hopes Claymore has many more years left in him, but in the meantime he’s going to take good care of him.

Crowe said he would encourage local officials to consider taking the same step to help care for their retired K9s as well.

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