Law enforcement officers give a final salute to former K-9 officer

Mar. 19—Law enforcement officers from both the Freeborn County Sheriff's Office and Albert Lea Police Department offered a final heartfelt salute Monday afternoon to former Sheriff's Office K-9 Stalker before he was taken in to be euthanized at South Central Pet Care in Albert Lea.

Stalker, 9 1/2, had served in the Sheriff's Office for about seven years before retiring at the end of February 2023.

A dispatcher could be heard over the radio offering a final tribute to Stalker, and then deputies, officers and dispatchers lined the entrance to the veterinary clinic as Deputy Josh Partlow, who had been Stalker's handler, and his family walked with their beloved pet inside.

Partlow said Stalker had hurt his leg four or five years ago after slipping on some ice and said while they had him looked over at the University of Minnesota and found that nothing was pulled or torn, ever since then he walked with a little twitch in his paw. Over time, Stalker's legs just kept getting worse.

In the last month, things progressed when Stalker tried to walk down the hallway, and Partlow said he couldn't keep his back legs straight when he walked.

Over the years of his service, Stalker had 192 deployments, including 116 patrol deployments and 76 narcotics detection deployments, Partlow said in a previous article after Stalker's retirement. Of those deployments, Stalker assisted in the arrest of 77 people.

"He loved the office," Partlow said of Stalker's time coming to work. "I'd bring him inside the Law Enforcement Center, and he'd run up to anyone who wanted to play with him or pet him."

He said the first place Stalker wanted to go each time they arrived at the Law Enforcement Center was the dispatch area because the dispatchers would hide treats for him, and he would run around and try to find them.

After Stalker retired, if Partlow went to grab his keys off of his duty belt or bring his uniform out, he would always wait by the back door wanting to go with his partner to work.

"He would try to sneak out the back door with me every time," Partlow said.

At home, Partlow said Stalker had a big personality and even found his training to come in handy there.

After Stalker retired, while Partlow's children were playing in the backyard, Stalker would often grab a landscape rock and take it to the middle of the backyard and either chew on it or lay with it there between his paws.

Partlow said he would then go and take it back to where it belonged with the other landscaping rocks, and Stalker would be able to go there and find the exact rock he had in his hands based off of his training of the human sent.

It turned into a game, and he would always have to make sure to look for landscaping rocks before mowing the grass.

When Partlow or his wife were cooking, Stalker liked to sprawl out in front of the stove, and he loved to grab any food that fell from the table during dinner time.

"Even when he was working and after he retired, he was just a playful pet at home," Partlow said.