DeKalb K-9 officer hangs up his collar

A DeKalb County police officer retired with seven years of service this week, having been shot in the line of duty but never allowed in the front seat of the patrol car.

Twan, a 10-year-old Belgian Malinois, has yet to realize his days of drug detection, tracking and searches ended Tuesday with a county order. He will continue to live with his partner, Sgt. Robert Frank, who has pledged to include training and searches in the dog’s golden years.

“What we consider work is all fun for him,” said Frank, himself set to retire early next year after 28 years on the force. “It’s all he knows.”

Twan joined the department in 2005, the second K-9 officer assigned to Frank. In 2008, the pair were pursuing two suspects in the robbery of a gas station on Moreland Avenue and I-285 when one of the suspects opened fire.

Bullets pierced Twan’s nose. Still, the dog was still able to find the discarded weapon and one of the suspects before being rushed to surgery.

Today, shrapnel still lies in Twan’s throat and stomach. The two men he pursued, meanwhile, are serving 25-year sentences for armed robbery and, for shooting Twan, cruelty to animals.

This week was the first time Frank could recount the story. He was too emotional to talk about his injured partner during the two-week veterinary stay. And he still choked up Thursday talking about the dog he considers family.

“He’s saved my life several times,” Frank said of Twan’s ability to literally sniff out danger. “It’s a life and death situation every day. That’s where the real tight connection comes from.”

Despite his injuries, Twan exceeded the average of five years’ service for police dogs. He helped with more than 500 arrests, including one of a homicide suspect his first month back after being injured, said spokeswoman Burke Brennan. He also helped seize more than $1.3 million in drugs and money.

With Twan’s retirement, DeKalb has 11 other K-9 officers that work countywide. The county has yet to decide whether it will replace Twan.

Frank, however, already discovered there is no replacement. Frank rescued a Belgian Malinois, Tye, two years ago from the county’s animal shelter, training him to be certified for police work. But the 3-year-old dog doesn’t have the same drive that propelled Twan, so he has remained a family pet.

Twan declined to comment, except to bark excitedly when the interview was finally over and he was able to get back into the patrol car. In the back seat.

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