NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Each year, dozens of K-9s are killed in the line of duty—some while tracking suspects; others in tragic accidents; and many while protecting their handlers.

“Man’s best friend” has long served alongside law enforcement, and on Sept. 1, which is recognized as National Police K-9 Day, time is set aside to recognize not only the dogs who continue to serve their communities but the fallen K-9s across the United States.

Most police K-9s serve in the force for six to nine years, unless their lives are cut short, according to the National Police Dog Foundation. In Tennessee, the Officer Down Memorial Page has identified at least 10 K-9s that have been killed in the line of duty since 1966.

However, the Officer Down Memorial Page, which tracks national line-of-duty deaths, noted that researchers are still working to ensure the list of fallen K-9s is complete.

The Humphreys County Sheriff’s Office was one of the most recent agencies to lose one of its K-9 officers. K-9 Ciro had served with the sheriff’s office for four years before he was killed in a tragic fire.

Below is a list of Tennessee K-9s who have died in the line of duty and their stories, based on the list compiled by the Officer Down Memorial Page.

Humphreys County Sheriff’s Office

K-9 Ciro
(Courtesy: Humphreys County Sheriff’s Office)

K-9 Ciro

End of Watch: Thursday, March 3, 2022

K-9 Ciro, a 5-year-old German Shepherd, died after his handler’s patrol car experienced an electrical failure that caused a fire to ignite in the dashboard. K-9 Ciro’s handler was attending court inside the Humphreys County Courthouse at the time.

A bystander spotted the fire and alerted nearby deputies, who reportedly broke out the windows and tried to pry the security bars off the window frames but could not get to K-9 Ciro in time. By the time they got to K-9 Ciro, he had succumbed to smoke inhalation.

The deputies suffered second-degree burns while trying to rescue K-9 Ciro. He served with the Humphreys County Sheriff’s Office for four years and was certified as a patrol and narcotics canine.

La Vergne Police Department

k-9 sjaak
(Courtesy: La Vergne Police Department/WKRN)

K-9 Sjaak

End of Watch: Wednesday, November 18, 2020

K-9 Sjaak, an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois, died a day after being injured when a person opened fire on his handler’s patrol car with an AR-15 rifle. The patrol car had just pulled out of the police department’s parking lot when another car pulled up next to it and began shooting.

K-9 Sjaak was struck multiple times by rounds that penetrated the patrol car’s door and kennel. His handler chased the suspect into an apartment complex on Rutherford Point Circle where the man reportedly exited his car and opened fire again.

Officers returned fire and wounded the man, who then got back into his vehicle and drove a short distance before crashing into a parked car. The man was found dead in his car. K-9 Sjaak’s handler discovered he’d been shot following the chase.

He was taken to a veterinary hospital where he died from his wounds after undergoing surgery. K-9 Sjaak served with the La Vergne Police Department for six years.

Crossville Police Department

(File photo)

K-9 Cain

End of Watch: Wednesday, August 2, 2017

K-9 Cain, a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois, was stabbed to death by a person who had reportedly stolen a tractor-trailer. A Cumberland County deputy tried to stop the semi around 4 a.m. after it was involved in a hit-and-run near the intersection of Highway 68 and Highway 127.

The driver led the deputy and other responding officers on a pursuit before crashing into a tree on Genesis Road at Obed River. K-9 Cain was released and went after the driver as he ran into the woods. He later returned to his handler after suffering numerous stab wounds to his chest.

K-9 Cain was rushed to UT Veterinary Medical Center but ultimately passed away. The suspect was taken into custody by other officers. K-9 Cain served with the Crossville Police Department for three years.

Monroe County Sheriff’s Office

Vigor K-9_265752
(File photo)

K-9 Vigor

End of Watch: Wednesday, March 9, 2016

K-9 Vigor, a 9-year-old Dutch Shepherd, drowned in the Tellico River while he and his handler were tracking a wanted suspect in the Cherokee National Forest. While trying to cross the river, Vigor and his handler were swept downstream by a strong current.

His handler was able to make it to shore, but K-9 Vigor was carried further downstream several hundred more yards. Another deputy swam into the river and grabbed K-9 Vigor, but efforts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.

The person K-9 Vigor was tracking was later taken into custody. K-9 Vigor served with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office for five years and was previously deployed to Iraq while serving as a military working dog in the U.S. Army.

Metro Nashville Police Department

K-9 Aron

End of Watch: Thursday, May 14, 1998

K-9 Aron, a 3-year-old German Shepherd, was shot and killed while he and his handler were trying to apprehend a man who had just robbed a bank. K-9 Aron tracked the man, who was armed with two handguns, into the woods after he ran out of the bank.

While in the woods, the man reportedly fired at K-9 Aron and his handler, who was shot in the foot and wounded. K-9 Aron got in between his handler and the suspect but was critically wounded after the man continued shooting.

Unable to use his front legs, K-9 Aron was able to push himself back to his handler. He was then taken to an emergency animal hospital where he succumbed to his wounds. K-9 Aron served with the Metro Nashville Police Department for one year.

K-9 Ingo

End of Watch: Thursday, December 4, 1986

K-9 Ingo, a 5-year-old German Shepherd, was shot and killed while trying to apprehend a bank robbery suspect. He and his handler cornered the man behind a staircase inside of an apartment complex, where the suspect emerged and opened fire.

K-9 Ingo was struck while trying to protect his handler. His handler returned fire and wounded the suspect, who was taken into custody. K-9 Ingo served with the Metro Nashville Police Department for five years.

Bristol Police Department

K-9 Boris

End of Watch: Tuesday, February 13, 1996

K-9 Boris was shot and killed while tracking two suspects who had reportedly shot at a civilian and an officer during an attempted carjacking. Two of the four suspects involved were arrested after crashing their vehicle and fleeing on foot.

An officer chased the remaining suspects, but they managed to escape. K-9 Boris assisted officers in tracking the two suspects into Bristol, Virginia. As K-9 Boris moved in to apprehend the suspects, who were hiding under a tractor-trailer, they opened fire and killed him.

Clarksville Police Department

K-9 King

End of Watch: Monday, May 22, 1978

K-9 King, a 4-year-old German Shepherd, was shot and killed while he and his handler were responding to a burglary in progress call near Spring Street.

As his handler approached the home, the suspect reportedly emerged from a doorway, raised a shotgun and fired. K-9 King sprang up in front of his handler to protect him and took the entire blast.

Dickson Police Department

K-9 Max

End of Watch: Tuesday, June 14, 1977

K-9 Max and Deputy Sheriff Robert Mayo of the Dickson County Sheriff’s Office were shot and killed while trying to arrest two people who had escaped from the Dickson County Jail. One of the escapees was a man being held on an attempted murder charge.

After escaping from the Dickson County Jail, the man and a woman broke into a home and robbed the owner. A Dickson County constable found the couple driving the victim’s stolen car on Highway 49 the next day and initiated a pursuit.

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The couple ran off after crashing about four miles east of Charlotte, leading to a manhunt. K-9 Max found the man hiding in a tree and was fatally shot. Deputy Mayo heard the shots and was shot in the neck as he neared the area.

The man was able to escape but was later shot and killed during a shootout with members of the Connecticut State Police. K-9 Max served with the Dickson Police Department for seven months.

Chattanooga Police Department

K-9 Apache

End of Watch: Tuesday, March 29, 1966

K-9 Apache died from injuries he sustained in a car accident as his handler was responding to a burglary in progress call. The officer crashed his patrol car while trying to avoid a hazard in the roadway. K-9 Apache’s injuries were so severe he had to be euthanized.