Officer says ‘goodbye’ to K9 partner

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It happens every day. Longtime work associations come to an end when one partner moves on for one reason or the other. But in the El Cajon Police Department, one of these partners doubles as man’s best friend — and his reassignment has left an online community reeling and a former officer without the companionship he has come to know for the last two and a half years.

It happens every day. Longtime work associations come to an end when one partner moves on for one reason or the other. But in the El Cajon Police Department, one of these partners doubles as man’s best friend — and his reassignment has left an online community reeling and a former officer without the companionship he has come to know for the last two and a half years.

Jester, K9 partner to Officer Jordan Walker since early 2016, has been teamed with a new handler following Walker’s resignation from the department to work for another agency. He is now assigned to Officer Randall Gray, with whom he has begun the police academy’s bonding process, and the police department said on Aug. 2 that he will resume service once the process is completed.

During their partnership, Walker had created a social media account that garnered more than 200,000 visitors. Often, the installments featured displays of the animal’s spunk and talent for obedience as Walker decked him out in funny hats — and upon the announcement of the split, fans created an extensive online petition, unsuccessfully urging the department to reverse its reassignment decision. 

In a statement, the department said it is not uncommon for K9s and their handlers to be separated “if their current one leaves the K9 unit because of a promotion, divisional transfer or separation from the department.”

The 5-year-old Belgian Malinois, which began work with El Cajon police in 2015, was brought in through a Ben Roethlisberger Foundation grant. The foundation says K9s cost between $8,000 and $18,000 to train.

Walker said his relationship with Jester was not limited to fun and games, noting the dog’s primary role in an arrest that netted a cache of street drugs worth $2 million.

Calling Jester an “amazing working pup,” Walker said in a post that “I was given an opportunity that people dream of — taking your best bud to work with you every day. So, for that, I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity. The success and popularity of Jester wouldn’t have been possible without all of his fans. Thanks to everyone that showed your love and support over the last few years. We appreciate it.”

The department’s statement said that it is confident Gray and Jester “will both learn to trust one another and work as a team. There is no doubt that together, the two will be a valuable asset to the El Cajon community and all of East County.”

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