Retired Hillsborough K-9 Officer Talon died peacefully on Saturday, April 21 at home surrounded by his family at his favorite spot in the woods by the creek he loved, according to a press release.
Talon was 14 years old and served the town for eight years before retiring in 2015.
Talon was tested and trained from an early age in Europe for the dual purpose of both aggression and tracking. Then the German shepherd was imported from Slovakia to Tarheel Canine where he met his long time handler, Scott Foster.
Foster said even though he had chosen Talon, he did not have enough time during selection to really bond with the 16-month-old puppy.
“I can remember everybody else was going up and sort of taking their dogs out of these crates just starting to play with them and the second I got up to the crate to take Talon out he started growling at me,” he said “I can remembering thinking then I wasn’t quite sure what I had gotten myself into.”
Foster said after about a week of resistance Talon eventually laid down with Foster in his bed and from that point on it was clear they were a really good match.
He said there was one experience working with Talon that proved the strength of their bond. Foster had pulled over a van, however, when the passenger stepped outside of his vehicle, Foster could sense this traffic stop could turn into a high-risk situation. He said from his training that he recognized this as a possible distraction tactic.
As soon as he let them know he had an automatic door popper to release his K-9 officer from the back seat, Talon began barking aggressively from within the vehicle without any command.
Foster said that he was impressed Talon was able to sense that he was in danger and act defensively without giving the K-9 officer any specific commands.
“It was comforting to know that we were that much of a team that he realized something wasn’t right just like I did,” said Foster “I wasn’t just a police officer with a dog at that point, I was actually part of a K-9 team and we were very much in tune.”
He said since Hillsborough is a small town, Talon was typically deployed for more tracking cases than aggression situations — and he was known for it. Talon quickly picked up on being able to track and locate anything from a fleeing suspect to a lost elderly dementia patient.
One of the people that helped Talon develop his skills was Thomas Newcomer, who has volunteered to assist training K-9 officers for close to 10 years on how to track and bite.
Most times when K-9 officers bite down it is not to injure the target, but to use force to hold the target down in place.
He said he used to come home all the time and tell his wife how aggressive Talon was during his trainings. When he and his wife were invited to go meet Talon and Foster she was hesitant to go in to the police department to meet him because of the stories she heard.
“She went in there and Talon sat down and Talon went over there next to her and started untying her shoes with his teeth” said Newcomer “From that point on she absolutely loved him, too.”
Foster said Talon was a lot more than just an extremely efficient tracking machine.
“He wasn’t just a police weapon, he was a living animal and for 12 years he was a huge integral part of my life,” Foster said.
He said that Talon should be remembered for more than just his accomplishments in the field. Foster said Talon, like any good police officer, could read situations well which made him an excellent K-9 officer and home companion.
“It was the fact that he could, just like any good police officer, be what was needed depending on the situation,” Foster said “He could be friendly, protective, patient or tough and change those roles effortlessly.”
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