The F.A.S.T. Co. donates sets of memorial cards to all partners
I need your help to inform me of such losses.
Febraury 3, 2007
Handler: Trooper Ed Hunter
Vermont State Police Headquarters
103 South Main Street
Waterbury, VT 05671-2101
Xerxes, in this 1998 photo, has a firm hold of Castleton Police Officer Joe Arduca’s arm as the dog’s handler, Vermont State Police Trooper Ed Hunter, puts on a K-9 demonstration at Castleton State College. Xerxes dies Saturday at the age of 12. A high-speed chase in Bethel had just concluded. After ramming a sergeant's cruiser, the suspects fled into the woods. When a call came in for a police dog, Vermont State Police Cpl. Ed Hunter said he was on another case and would not be able to get there with his dog, Xerxes, for a couple of hours. "They said 'No problem — we'll wait for you,'" Hunter said. "They had that much confidence in that dog." Xerxes, who found 170 people during his career as a police dog, died Saturday at the age of 12. Named for the Persian emperor who led a massive invasion of Greece, Xerxes came to Hunter from a pair of dog breeders who had a falling out. He completed police dog training in November 1996, but his first "track and find" came before his graduation. Hunter said the Brandon Police Department needed a dog to track someone who had been ramming his way into local businesses with a Ford Bronco and then robbing them. "We tracked this guy into the swamp and caught him," Hunter said. "I spent the night at the academy washing mud off the dog. … We knew he loved tracking at that point." Robert Sterling, a game warden and dog handler for the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, said Xerxes quickly developed a widespread reputation. "If a person could be found and you called Xerxes, you could find him," Sterling said. As much as they wanted Xerxes on the scene, Sterling said the dog was so fast that most officers didn't want to be among those running to keep up with him. "One of the first tracks I remember running with him, I'd be throwing off one layer or the other just to keep up," he said. Xerxes also had a playful side. Hunter's scrapbook, which contains training records and clippings of news stories involving the dog, also has pictures of him with children. "You could take him, train him, do an attack and two seconds later take out a tennis ball and play with him," Sterling said. Hunter said he retired Xerxes last year because he was starting to slow down in his old age, but the dog did not immediately take to retirement. "He'd spin around in that kennel to the point where he'd bite the end of his tail off," he said. "It was separation anxiety from not being able to work." In addition to catching criminals, Xerxes is credited with saving a number of lives, including a 70-year-old man who got stuck in the mud while fishing, a 2-year-old found in a culvert and a hiker who had a heart attack on the Long Trail. In his last year, though, Hunter said Xerxes was content. "He'd lie on the deck," he said. "He'd go wandering, but he'd have four spots he'd go to and I'd go and walk him home. I never got mad at him because he earned it. That dog made more arrests than a lot of our troopers did." Hunter and Sterling said police dogs and their handlers frequently develop a very close bond. "It's hard to explain, " Hunter said. "People love their pets, but most people don't work with their dog 12, 15, 20 hours out of the day. We didn't even go on vacation when we had him." Hunter said his late father helped train Xerxes, and his sense of loss was compounded because he felt the dog was their last connection. Sterling and Hunter said most state police dog handlers pay for all the care and feeding of their animals, but don't mind a bit. "The benefit of it all is, you find one person," Hunter said. "They might say thanks, they probably won't, but over the course of years when you help the guys on the road, that's what counts."