Franklin County Sheriff Lt. David Rackliffe and his 15-year-old retired partner, Odin, outside the Farmington compound recently. Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham

FARMINGTON — He has trouble hearing and seeing, and it has become a bit of a struggle for him to jump into the squad car. But in his heart, 15-year-old Odin is still all police dog.

Lt. David Rackliffe of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and his 15-year-old retired partner, Odin, share a tender moment outside the Farmington office recently. Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham

“If I have someone come and visit at my house, I’ll put him away,” said Lt. David Rackliffe, Odin’s owner. “When he comes out, he’ll have his nose right up in the air smelling and he goes, ‘I can’t see you but I know you’re here somewhere!’ He’ll go around barking, like, ‘Get out of my space!'”

For seven years, Odin worked for the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, one of two dogs dedicated to sniffing out drugs, hunting down suspects and finding hidden evidence. The German shepherd left the Sheriff’s Office in 2012 to spend his days dozing on the couch and asking for treats.

Today, he is one of the oldest retired police dogs in Maine.

“I call him my grumpy old man,” Rackliffe said.

Their lengthy partnership almost did not happen. At the K-9 academy in 2005, Rackliffe was paired with another dog, Rugar. Rugar made it halfway through the 12-week training program, but he did not have the tenacity and courage that Franklin County’s K-9 unit needed. Rackliffe had to scramble to find another partner.

He found him in a puppy video from a trainer in Germany.

“Immediately, I was just like: ‘He’s an awesome dog. He’s going to be an awesome dog,'” Rackliffe said.

The puppy was intent, scent-driven and he hunted down a thrown toy with the determination of a police dog hunting down a suspect.

Rackliffe was quick to make his choice.

“I want that dog,” he said.

He paid $4,500 out of his own pocket to buy the 11-month-old puppy and have him shipped from Germany. The dog was originally named Frankie, but Rackliffe changed that to Odin — a nod to Rackliffe’s own Norse heritage and a name that seemed more fitting for a powerful police dog.

Odin prances around the compound at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office in Farmington recently. Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham

For years, the pair were inseparable, working together at the Sheriff’s Office in Farmington and living together at Rackliffe’s farm in Weld. Odin racked up a list of accomplishments, including detecting drugs and finding suspects. In one case, Odin tracked a guy to a hiding spot under some bushes.

“He had some expletive words for my dog that night,” Rackliffe said. “Very clear he said, ‘You guys never would have found me if it wasn’t for the dog.'”

Odin’s reward for a job well done: a ball or his favorite battery-operated, vibrating stuffed animal.

“There was nothing else that drove him more insane to go do something than that,” Rackliffe said of the stuffed animal. “Until he destroyed it.”

Although Odin was trained to protect his human colleagues from threats, he never bit anyone in the line of duty. He didn’t have to. His bark was intimidating enough to get people to behave.

“I call it the ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ effect,” Rackliffe said. “Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? Everyone’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.”

But as he worked, Odin dealt with physical problems. He had surgery on one knee in 2007 and another knee in 2008. Rackliffe began thinking about an early retirement for his partner.

In 2010, Rackliffe brought home 8-week-old Justice as a K-9 in training. Once Justice was qualified to take his place a couple of years later, Odin officially stood down.

While Odin left the Sheriff’s Office, he did not leave Rackliffe. Odin remained alpha dog in the two-K-9 home.

“Sometimes there’s a little competition for the couch or food,” Rackliffe said. “But there’s very rarely anything more than a little bit of  growling or posturing. Especially at this point. Odin is obviously much older, but he still rules the roost.”

These days, Odin enjoys guarding the house, napping, pawing at the refrigerator to ask for ice cubes and roaming the farm.

“He likes to go out and smell the chickens,” Rackliffe said.

Though that curiosity has gotten him in trouble. Last year, a cow kicked him in the right eye, detaching his retina and blinding him in that eye.

With cataracts in his left eye, Odin’s sight is poor. His hearing has also greatly diminished over the years. Rackliffe has to help lift him into the car because his back legs don’t work as well as they used to.

“He’s 105, you know?” Rackliffe said. “He doesn’t respond much to voice anymore unless I’m really loud. So he and I have started communicating in claps. For whatever reason, I don’t know if it’s the vibration in the clap, but he recognizes that easier than my voice.”

Given the demands of job, it’s not common for a police dog to make it to his middle teens. That Odin has, despite two surgeries and years spent in the field, is extraordinary.

“Personally, I don’t know any other police K-9 who has made it to 15 years old,” Rackliffe said.

A couple of weeks ago, Odin celebrated his birthday at the Sheriff’s Office, with a cupcake, a balloon, a card and a lot of attention from his former colleagues.

“Fifteen years,” Rackliffe said. “Who would have ever thought?”

Animal Tales is a recurring Sun Journal feature about animals and their people. Have an idea for Animal Tales? Call Lindsay Tice at 689-2854 or email her at [email protected].

 

 


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