K-9 Odie retires after 9 years on the force

Charleston Master Patrol Officer Dave Tharp calls off Odie during apprehension training.

Kristen Hankla

Every dog might have its day, but not just any dog has a distinguished career in law enforcement.

K-9 officer Odie, one of six patrol dogs employed by the Charleston Police Department, retired April 30 after nine years of tracking murderers and sniffing out drugs.

Odie's handler, Master Patrol Officer David Tharp, said the 10 1/2-year-old German shepherd served with distinction, beginning with his very first apprehension -- a kidnapping suspect who led officers deep into a swamp and buried himself in the mud nearly a decade ago.

Odie now spends his days at Tharp's house, adapting to life as a normal dog. Tharp, a 14-year-veteran, said it's been difficult for both of them.

"He's 10 but he wants to work," Tharp said. "He sees me put on my uniform and he wants to go with me."

Odie learned what a dog-eat-dog world it can be two weeks ago when his replacement, a 2-year-old German shepherd named Panzer, arrived at the Tharp home from Europe. The reception has not been warm, what with both Odie and Panzer vying to be top dog.

"It's hard," Tharp said. "You have to grab the new dog and take him out of the house while Odie watches you."

Tharp and Panzer have a lot of repetitious work ahead of them. Panzer, a friendly and eager dog, arrived with only basic training.

For the next three months, they will be off the road, training and playing until Panzer's ready to embark on his own career.

Meanwhile, Odie will be hanging out on Tharp's couch, soon to be the proud owner of his own plaque recognizing his years of service with the department.

"It's good for him," Tharp said. "Odie gets to stay home and be a pet now."