K-9 Gunner, a long-haired German Shepherd, is now a retired employee of the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department, but Leadership Franklin and members of the Franklin Police Department are asking for better protection for their four-legged officers.

Gunner, originally born Kazon in Germany, was just 13 months old when he joined the force in 2008 at the accompaniment of Corporal Debbie Rogers, who helped lay the foundation for the K-9 unit in Williamson County.

Since that time he has found himself in extremely useful to the force. He usually worked day shift since that is when he was most needed for drug searches. Gunner was also able to track down a man that stole a car on Columbia Ave., ending in a felony conviction.

He was a part of a traffic stop on I-65 S where Corporal Rogers identified some mysterious boxes in the back seat, and thanks to K9 Gunner’s tracking, 80 lbs. of marijuana were confiscated.  In this case, without the K-9 hit from Gunner, Rogers would not have been able to search the car without consent.  “He got a piece of steak for dinner that night,” said the proud handler Rogers.

These kinds of situations are often dangerous for both two-legged and four-legged police officers. The dogs are willing to loose their lives for officers, but in general they are just all around hard-workers. The police force in Franklin currently has four dogs in the K-9 unit, but only one protective K9 vest. Each K-9 vests costs $750.

After 6 ½ years of service, Gunner has slowed down a bit and it’s time to retire.  He’s now assumed more of the role as ‘petting dog’ for the department, and the kids of the community love to see him out for events. Since Gunner can no longer be on active duty, he needed a home to go to.

With no retirement program for the K-9 dogs, Rogers was asked to take him home. She gladly accepted, but officer handlers are not always able to take retired K-9 dogs into their care.

“We love the dogs, and when this campaign idea came about, I was so touched… No handler would want to give up their dog, but it’s a lot of responsibility to retire them in your own home,” said Rogers.

As a part of Leadership Franklin’s current class they’ve decided to partner with the Sheriff’s department and have committed to not only arm these dogs properly with vests to wear when in the line of duty, but to make sure Gunner is also honored for his service, and hopefully other K-9’s as well in future years.

“Not only do we want to make sure these officers have protective vests, but we’re also aiming to build a retirement fund to help officers with the cost of caring for their K9 partners once they retire.  These costs include veterinary care and food,” said Leadership Franklin class member Kerri Hudson.

Donations can be made to the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, 408 Century Court, Franklin, TN 37064, please make sure and label your donation for “Gunner’s Guardians.”

A post-retirement reception for K-9 Gunner will be held at the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday, March 12 at 11:00 a.m. The event is open to the public and will include a brief ceremony recognizing K-9 Gunner, a K-9 Demonstration; plus additional information on the K-9 unit and donation opportunities.