Cop’s tears for partner Sergeant heartbroken as he had to put down sick dog

2014-06-05 00:00

SERGEANT Ryan Charlton moved his family to a new house this year — so he could give his police dog a real home in his final days.

But, this week, the SAPS dog handler had to have his legendary canine partner, Ully, put down, in “the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do”.

Having searched the remote corners of KZN for the past nine years — in helicopters; boats; abseil harnesses — Ully’s high-profile recoveries include the body of five-year-old Shanae Muir in 2005, lost hikers in the Berg, grim evidence against the “sugarcane serial killer”, and rescue work at the Tongaat Mall collapse last year.

His senior SAPS search-and-rescue colleague, Lieutenant Jack Haskins, told The Witness, “Ryan phoned me afterwards — he was shattered; crying. You have to understand: we spend more time with our dogs than with our own families.”

Ully was the brother of Haskins’s dog, Udain.

Haskins said, “When my wife died in 2010, Udain was my psychologist who got me through it. It was the same kind of bond that Ryan had with Ully — a magic dog. The community has lost a fantastic partner this week.”

Charlton (39) said his companion was a “model dog” who had “fight in him” up until the time he died.

“We did hundreds of cases and he was an amazing service dog. I found people alive with him that otherwise would have died. He saved people’s lives and reunited others with their loved ones,” he said.

The handler once sat through the night in a remote bush area with his second dog — a fierce patrol dog — after the animal collapsed with dehydration, and Charlton had carried him for roughly four kilometres.

One of the most senior police dogs in service, Ully, was on the brink of retirement from Durban’s K-9 unit when he was crippled with a string of illnesses.

The Belgian shepherd’s last search was in February before disease took him out of service. “Last year he started getting sick and I took him to the police vet, who found that his spleen was enlarged. He had an operation and the organ was removed because a mass had developed.

“Over the next few months, his fur never grew back where they had shaved him so there seemed to be another problem. They took blood tests and found he had a thyroid issue.”

Charlton said that, as Ully’s condition worsened, he moved to a house with a yard in Morningside to accommodate his old partner in a loving home.

“He just started deteriorating more and more and I didn’t want to leave him at the [police] kennels but I had nowhere to keep him. So then we moved house so I could have him at home with me. What would happen to him when he gets boarded had been a nagging issue. I didn’t want to give him to someone else because he had been with me for nine years; we had such an incredible bond.”

Charlton said he had spent long hours with Ully in his last days.

“I could see that he wasn’t right and he was struggling to get up and walk. I took him out and I kept him at home. The last five days he didn’t move at all, he just lay there. He still had the fight in him — you could see that in his eyes — but his body had given up. I just had to make the decision. To see him lying there unable to walk was more traumatic for me because I remembered the dog that he was.

“Each dog you have makes an impression on you and I will never forget him … It’s incredibly sad but I didn’t want to see him suffer any more. I wanted him to go peacefully,” he said.


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