The last K9 officer to have served the Limestone County Sheriff’s Office has died.
Kilo was brought into the department in 2010 by, then patrol officer, Josh McLaughlin. She served with him as he transitioned into the role of narcotics lieutenant. In 2013, the department decided it was best for her to serve the Alabama Department of Corrections at the Limestone Correctional Facility. She served with her handler, Lt. Aaron McCarley, there for six years before retiring in 2018 after a nine-year career as a law enforcement K9.
“She was an asset to the state of Alabama,” McCarley said. “She went above and beyond her job.”
When McLaughlin brought her to the department, she was the first K9 at LCSO since probably around the '90s he said. She was around 2-years-old at the time, and he went up to Kansas to get certified with her in 2010. She was a single-purpose dog who searched for narcotics odor, or a scent-dog. Kilo was 15-years-old when she died on Monday, March 20, 2023.
“She’s an officer. She’s a part of the team,” now Sheriff McLaughlin said. “She was my dog for a long time. She was the family dog at the same time, which is unusual for a working dog. … She worked as hard as she could, was an outstanding dog. I’d say she’s one of the best in the state.”
“She just, she had a great temperament on her, up until even right before she died,” McCarley said.
McCarley and McLaughlin took time swapping stories, remembering the good work Kilo used to do with them. Multiple times, they discussed having her out on scene and she would pick up a scent and bolt off to track it down. McCarley would bring her out to work with the narcotics unit at the sheriff’s office a lot. There was one time at a school she was working in the parking lot and they found marijuana in a car, McCarley said. And she more than earned her reward when they went inside to get the kid from the school.
“Kid actually had a gun in his backpack. So, I mean, that was a very good day for her,” McCarley said.
“She was definitely a good asset as far as keeping people from bringing stuff to school,” McLaughlin said.
When McLaughlin first gave Kilo to McCarley all those years ago, it was definitely a transition for the men and her.
“It was very challenging, at first, because of course she loved Josh. It was just a very slow process. It was just getting her out every day, letting her trust me. And when she finally did, she started just loving on me," McCarley said. “When she realized, okay, I'm not that bad, she started nosing at my hand, wanting a pet and beginning to trust me. And then we started putting narcotic hides out and then she realized, okay, this is back to the game.”
He said it was only two weeks later he took her down to a working dog competition and she came in second place.
“I was kind of like, man, you only had her two weeks,” McLaughlin said. “Because there is a bond between the dog and the handler, of course. And, you have to learn to read her. She has to learn to read you. And the fact that she can go out and do that with a brand new handler was pretty impressive.”
The two law enforcement officers worked together when McCarley would bring a K9 to help LCSO before they got Kilo. So, even though the transition wouldn’t be easy for anyone, McLaughlin said knowing it wouldn’t be the last time they worked together — and who she was going to — helped.
“Obviously it wasn't easy; it wasn't easy for me, it wasn't easy for my kids. But then to know that she was going to someone that I knew, treated animals the same way I did, loved animals the same way that I did, it made it that much easier,” he said. “But then we were together, he still worked with me frequently and he brought her out to work with me frequently. She’d jump out of the car a lot of times and run straight over to me, say hello, and then she'd take off.”
McCarley said, aside from helping out in Limestone County, she was known throughout the state as during her career he would take her to schools and prisons all over the state.
“There are 11 state narcotics dogs. And, normally we’d all get together and go hit a prison and go through the whole thing. That was our main job, and still is. She was good,” McCarley said.
Kilo loved to work for her handlers. It was the love she got in return that was her favorite part, both men said.
“She loved petting. Anytime she made a bust, of course, she'd get her reward. But Josh knows that she loved getting that petting too. You know, she'd get her paycheck and then she'd want that loving,” McCarley said.
“If you didn't bring her out and play with her outside of work, she would let you know it,” McLaughlin said. “She had a little attitude on her. She'd sit there and look at you. So if there was a day that I didn't go out and play fetch with her, or work with her on some hides, or take her for a walk, or anything, the next day, she'd let me know. She'd sit down for a little while and refuse to do some things until we played a little bit, then she'd go to work.”
Kilo took a little while to enjoy retirement. McCarley had another working dog after Kilo retired, and he said she had a very distinct bark to let him know that she also wanted to go to work. Eventually, he said she started to realize he was still going to come home and give her time to play and plenty of her beloved pets, so she started to enjoy it then.
“Once you earned her trust, you were golden. She loved you up until the day she passed,” McCarley said. “She loved me. Like I said, once she trusts you, you were in her circle. It was hard to watch her go.”
“There's a reason they call them man's best friend. I really do believe there's something more there,” McLaughlin said.
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