It was with a very heavy heart that Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing announced the passing of beloved longtime K-9 Sari on Monday evening.
“Sari had been a dedicated member of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department for 10 years, dutifully serving alongside K-9 handler Lt. Jim Lansing,” Rohlfing said. “But she’s been sick for a while and was running out of steam.”
Rohlfing added that Sari had recently been diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on her liver.
Sari, a German shepherd, was born Oct. 9, 2002, in Budapest, Hungary. She arrived in the United States in April 2005, and met her partner for life, Lansing, at the Rudy Drexler School for Dogs in Elkhart, Ind.
Sari was slated to retire on Aug. 1 — 10 years to the day after she entered into service at the sheriff’s department with Lansing. At almost 13 years old, Sari had a slower-paced life to look forward to, residing with the Lansings and making periodic community appearances.
The sheriff’s department already has two new K-9 teams in service, Reggie with Deputy Justin Mendenhall and Kondor with Deputy Ed Ahne.
In Sari’s long career, she was renowned for her excellent tracking skills. One grateful mother, whose daughter Sari helped located, took to the sheriff’s department’s Facebook page to offer her condolences Monday night.
“She was an amazing dog who helped me and my daughter on one of the worst days of my life,” Missy Kay Goessling wrote. “Ella was lost in a field and Sari helped find her. My daughter carries around three different pictures of her. (We are) sending our love!”
Last year, the Columbia Police Department also lost its first K-9 to an unexpected death. Former CPD K-9 handler Josh Bayer reached out to offer his condolences.
“Jim and Sari led a great career together as a team. May she rest in peace with the other K-9 officers who have gone before her,” Bayer wrote.
The sheriff’s department had been planning a retirement party for Sari on Aug. 1. Instead, that will likely be the date of her funeral.
During a recent newspaper interview about Sari’s upcoming retirement, Lansing praised Sari for her superior skills when it came to tracking, drug detection, handler protection and more. He also noted that she was by far the most popular member of the sheriff’s department, frequently appearing at local festivals and organizations, putting on demonstrations and simply spreading goodwill for the MCSD.
Lansing, who will now be a shift commander and lead the county’s current K-9 officers, said recently that he is looking forward to the future of Monroe County’s K-9 program.
But, as capable as Reggie and Kondor are, they just can’t replace his original.
“They are really good dogs, but I just don’t think there will be another Sari,” Lansing said.
The funeral for Sari will take place 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 1, at Immaculate Conception Church in Columbia. The public is welcome to attend.
To read last week’s story about Sari on her upcoming retirement and the future of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department K-9 program in its entirety, click here.