Retired K-9 Buzz has earned the nickname "Bulldozer Buzz."
When Officer John Lehman accidentally threw a red cone-shaped rubber toy under a wooden A-frame shelf Monday evening, the 80-pound German shepherd/Belgian Malinois mix barreled into the shelf, knocking down a small white picture frame.
Buzz didn't notice, though. He happily carried the toy back to John, urging him to throw it again.
Buzz is enjoying the luxurious retirement he deserves, John joked.
With more than eight years of service, Buzz retired from the Jefferson City Police Department last fall. But his ties to the department are still strong after a local police officer adopted Buzz.
John and his wife, Danielle, adopted Buzz in September.
"I kind of think of him as a retired officer, just like one of us," said John, a six-year JCPD officer. "He's done his time, and he deserves a life of luxury, which I think he definitely has."
Buzz barreled his way into the police force in 2011 after the department selected him from Shallow Creek Kennels in Pennsylvania. Shortly after, he was paired with Officer Paul Gash, and the duo quickly learned basic commands, suspect apprehension, handler protection, tracking individuals and narcotic detection.
His second day on the job, Buzz helped Gash make their first felony drug find. Over the next eight years, the pair recovered multiple pounds of methamphetamine and marijuana, and they participated in heroin and cocaine seizures. They also recovered thousands of dollars.
With more than 650 deployments and an impressive record of 50 successful tracks, Buzz assisted with multiple traffic stops and civil apprehensions — meaning the suspects surrendered to the dog — according to a Jan. 27 JCPD news release.
"Officer Gash quickly pointed out that Buzz was a once-in-a-lifetime dog and a pleasure to work with as a partner," according to the news release. "Gash stated that he truly learned a lot from Buzz and believes that he is a better officer and will be a better handler in the future."
For Buzz's accomplishments during his career, the North American Police Work Dog Association placed him in its Honor Roll hall of fame.
K-9 Drax replaced Buzz on the Jefferson City police force in December 2019.
Seeing Buzz in work mode made John slightly hesitant at first to adopt the retiring K-9, especially since his family has an 18-month-old daughter, Olivia.
"Danielle was all for adopting him, and I was kind of skeptical because I've seen both sides. I've seen his social side like this," John said, pointing at Buzz as the dog happily slobbered on his toy near his owner's feet. "But he's a different dog when it's time to work, and I've also seen that side. So it can be a little scary, especially with a 1-year-old in the house, but I couldn't be happier with him."
John and Danielle added Buzz hasn't lashed out at Olivia since adjusting to retirement life.
The Lehmans previously had a German shepherd and said there's a noticeable difference between the two. Despite being 9 years old, Buzz still acts like he's 2 years old, Danielle said, adding he has a different drive than their other dog.
Because of his energy level, the Lehmans must take Buzz on at least two long walks daily and play with him several times throughout the day to release that pent-up energy.
While Buzz isn't sniffing for drugs or catching suspects anymore, John makes sure the retired K-9 doesn't lose his tracking skills. John does "article searches" with Buzz, such as throwing his cellphone or a quarter into the backyard and ordering Buzz to find it.
Buzz's obedience training still shines through even after six months of retirement. While John dangled Buzz's favorite toy in front of him, the dog intensely watched it, waiting for his owner to give the cue. The Lehmans joked Buzz has "crazy eyes" when he watches the cone-shaped toy.
"Free dog!" John said in a high-pitched voice, to which Buzz immediately snatched the toy from his owner's hand.
Buzz also listens to the German commands he learned while on the police force, such as "sitz" for "sit" and "platz" for "down."
"It's a double-edged sword because he's so well-trained — but we call him 'Bulldozer Buzz' because all his life, he knows to get to what he wants at all means necessary," Danielle said. "He's run over the coffee table just to get to the Kong or to go on a walk with John, but he's integrated really well into home life, I think."
Having a well-trained dog is one perk, the Lehmans said, but knowing Buzz will get the retirement he deserves makes the adoption all the better.
"I think the most fun we're going to have is just having the reward of knowing he's going to be able to live out the rest of his days in a little bit of luxury," John said.