Original Snellville K-9 dies after 13 years with officer

K-9 Chris, one of Snellville's first K-9 officers, died this weekend.

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K-9 Chris, one of Snellville's first K-9 officers, died this weekend.

From his first day of training with the Snellville Police Department, K-9 officer Chris was ready to work.

The Belgian Malinois worked with Lt. David Matson for 11 years, tracking scents, recovering evidence and sniffing out hundreds of pounds of drugs and thousands of dollars in cash. Chris also became a member of Matson’s family, serving as protector to Matson’s young daughter after his retirement from the K-9 force in 2015.

Chris died Saturday after a battle with cancer. He was one of Snellville’s first K-9 officers.

Chris was also Matson’s first police dog. The dog’s intelligence and drive to work made training easier, Matson said.

“From day one, all he wanted to do was work,” Matson said. “He would get out of the car and start sniffing right away without even being told. Even when he wasn’t working, if he went to a place he hadn’t been before, he had to sniff every inch of it to make sure it was okay.”

Chris’ thorough nature paid off. In 2007, he found 1,000 pounds of marijuana and more than $100,000 in cash during an RV search.

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K-9 Chris recovered 1,000 pounds of marijuana and more than $100,000 in cash in a 2007 search. He died this weekend.

Credit: Lt. David Matson

K-9 Chris recovered 1,000 pounds of marijuana and more than $100,000 in cash in a 2007 search. He died this weekend.

Credit: Lt. David Matson

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K-9 Chris recovered 1,000 pounds of marijuana and more than $100,000 in cash in a 2007 search. He died this weekend.

Credit: Lt. David Matson

Credit: Lt. David Matson

In addition to working as Matson’s partner, Chris also lived with Matson and his family for the majority of his life, from his first day of police training until his death this week.

“Chris was a hardworking dog and did his job well, but when we would go home, I would take his work collar off and put his home collar on, and he transitioned to being a pet,” Matson said. “It was like having your best friend with you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

When Chris retired and Matson got a new K-9, Jax, the two dogs bonded “like student and mentor,” Matson said. Chris mourned Matson’s other dog and cats when they died, and, in retirement, bonded strongly with Matson’s daughter, Emily, who is now 5 years old.

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K-9 Chris watches TV with Emily Matson at 1 year old.

Credit: Lt. David Matson

K-9 Chris watches TV with Emily Matson at 1 year old.

Credit: Lt. David Matson

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K-9 Chris watches TV with Emily Matson at 1 year old.

Credit: Lt. David Matson

Credit: Lt. David Matson

“He had to find a new job to do, so he became the protector of my daughter,” Matson said. “He was always with her. He would check everyone out, like, ‘You don’t come around her until I’m ready for you to.’ ”

Emily is still processing that her canine protector is gone, Matson said. She told her father she hopes Chris will visit her as an angel.

“When I was going to get Chris’s remains, she said ‘Tell him I miss him and I’m ready for him to come visit me,’ ” Matson said. “I said, 'What do you mean?’ and she said ‘He has wings now, and he can come visit me.’ ”

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