GALLIPOLIS — Gallia County sheriff’s deputies bid a fond farewell Sunday over the radio to K-9 Deputy Argo after the dog passed away that same day after battling kidney issues.
Argo would have turned 6 years old in December and served with his partner and handler, Gallia Deputy Jerry Darst.
“It took a while to (get used to each other),” Darst said. “He came from Pine Kennel Grove that Steve Heater (runs). Steve said he was going to be a hard dog (to work with). He was a bit standoffish, but once we got together, he wouldn’t let anyone else fool with him. He was handler sensitive and protective of me. It was like he was attached to my hip.”
Darst related one story in which he and Argo were searching a structure to make certain it was clear of potential suspects. Darst had made note of a ladder leading up to an attic and told his colleague deputy he was going to climb into the attic to make sure no one was up there. Argo climbed up right beside him with no beckoning because he wanted to make certain he was at Darst’s side. Darst said no one would have believed Argo had done that if a fellow deputy not been there to witness it. At the time, Darst said Argo had not been trained to climb ladders and the decision was made by the dog.
Darst told another story in which Argo was sitting inside the cruiser with Darst and a man had come up to pat Darst on the shoulder. Argo roughed up the interior of the vehicle in protest, thinking the man was going to hurt Darst.
“He wasn’t very sociable,” Darst said. “He was kind of a street dog and he was all about business.”
The deputy said even when another dog was present as Argo was attempting to scent out a target, he was more fixated on getting the job done than worrying about another dog barking at him. The deputy noted the extreme loyalty of his partner and, despite some of his rougher aspects, their bond was unbreakable. Darst said Argo could even be protective of money collected after a bust.
“If he thought someone was going to hurt me, that wasn’t going to happen,” Darst said. “He was hell-bent on being by my side. When we were together on patrol, I never worried because I knew he was there for me.”
Darst said Argo had a way about him when he knew a person was hiding in a structure. He would not want to leave the spot until he convinced his handler otherwise. Between the pair, they seized around $35,000 in cash at various drug and traffic stops, not including firearms or drugs they discovered. Argo was available to assist village police departments as well as the Ohio State Highway Patrol when necessary. He had assisted with police operations outside of Gallia County, as well.
Argo started to work with Darst when he was roughly 2½ years old. Argo retired in early April due to continuing health problems.
“It’s been pretty rough (with the loss of Argo) and you try to be tough,” Darst said. “I just feel like a part of me died. You spend two years going to work with somebody every day, it’s hard. There was a care from him you couldn’t beat.
“There was just this loyalty and a bond with him. I loved that dog and he loved me. He served the community well and I like to think he made a difference. I’m just glad I can give him a little respect and honor.”
Argo joins Jeck, another recently passed deputy K-9, with honors from the Gallia Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies held a final call for Argo on Sunday.
“Gallia County to all listening personnel. This is a final call for K-9 Argo of the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office as he reports to his final duty station,” crackled a voice on the radio. “K-9 Argo passed away today, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016, after two years of service. He carries with him our gratitude and appreciation for his sacrifice to protect and serve Gallia County, his handler Deputy Darst and the community. K-9 Argo is three-seven-four-three for the final time. God bless and rest in peace.”
Thirty-seven and 43 are Argo and Darst’s parting code numbers as they signed off every shift on the radio. Thirty-seven stands for off-duty and 43 means a deputy has returned home.
“We were fortunate to have our time with him,” said Gallia Sheriff Joe Browning. “He actually was responsible for quite a few drug seizures and criminal apprehensions. Argo was a good dog.”
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.