Recently retired Ohio police officer, Matt Hickey, had high hopes that his K9 partner, Ajax, would retire alongside him. Little did Hickey know, this situation would turn into a controversy seen around the country.
57-year-old Hickey and 5-year-old Ajax have been partners for over three years. Their bond was so strong that it could never be broken.
"Ajax is a family member; one of my children," Hickey told his local news channel, WBNS.
The controversy began when Hickey planned to retire from law enforcement after 34 years of service and expected Ajax to retire with him. The reason why Hickey assumed that his beloved canine would enjoy their golden years together is that he spoke with his chief about it. Plain and simple.
“I was under the assumption I would end up with the dog [when I retired],” he said. Hickey was aware of Ajax's worth, which was $3,500. Without hesitation, Hickey presented the check on his last day of work.
“I'm retiring today, here's the money for the dog. He said ‘I can't take the money for the dog,’” Hickey explained when he spoke to his chief.
Hickey thought the transaction was going to be easy and that Ajax would be riding shotgun home that evening, but the city felt otherwise. The city didn't see Ajax as a dog. He was property.
“The dog is property of the city of Marietta,” said Paul Bertram III, Marietta's Law Director. “Because it is personal property, it is treated like a shovel. That's just the way it is.”
Typically, police dogs don't retire at age five — he was far too young and had several more years to serve his community, the city believed. Many K9's don't retire until age seven or eight. Instead, the city decided to auction off Ajax to the highest bidder. But the winner might not be Hickey.
“I’m afraid somebody might take the dog and auction way high and go over my head,” Hickey said.
While it sounds outrageous to auction off a police dog, the city says they have the authority to do it. However, this auction isn't open to the public, but only available to retired or active police officers, or someone who has experience training police dogs.
Hickey became fearful of the possible outcome. Over the past three years, they had developed a close relationship, professionally and personally. In a matter of days, he could lose his best friend.
“He’s with me 24/7,” Hickey explained. “He goes with me on my vacation; there’s a tight bond. I’m his pack leader.”
Hickey's story reached millions of people outside of Ohio, and those people were upset. Many people wrote hateful words on the city's and police department's social media sites.
A concerned citizen, Corey Orr, decided to intervene. He wanted Hickey to have his dog. So Corey set up a GoFundMe account which was to raise money for Hickey to purchase Ajax during the auction if it came down to that. It raised over $72,000.
After the public's outcry, Marietta Police Chief, Rodney Hupp, held a news conference to propose a solution. The catch? Hickey would have to continue working, but not as a police officer, as an auxiliary officer.
Hickey wanted to retire, and with increasing health issues, he declined the job offer.
Just days later, Hickey received a call from Bertram with fantastic news. Hickey could purchase Ajax for $1.
So why the change of heart? According to Ohio law, "Upon the disbanding of the canine or equine unit of a law enforcement agency, the agency shall give the law enforcement officer to whom a police dog or horse is assigned the first chance to purchase the animal, for one dollar."
After 34 years of service, Hickey was surprised to see how many people were supporting him and Ajax. After everything he's seen over the past 34 years, he's become a little "jaded."
“I didn’t know there were this many people that were that good,” he said. “It’s hard to put into words how much I want to thank everybody.”
While Hickey is officially retired, he's working with legislation to ensure other officers don't endure the same problem he did. And as for the $72,000 from the GoFundMe account, Hickey has decided to give the money to "Vested Interest in K9s," a charity that makes bulletproof vests for police dogs.
What do you think about this story? Let us know your thoughts in our comment section! In related news, a police officer was ambushed by three men. Then he pressed a button to release the reign of terror — his K9 partner!