Officer Matthew Hickey had his community’s back for more than 30 years he spent on the Marietta, Ohio, police force. And when he retired in 2016, he was shocked to discover they had his, as well.
He decided to turn in his badge in early 2016, when he was 57 years old, after spending the last four years working as a K9 officer. As his retirement neared, he made plans to buy his partner, a German shepherd named Ajax, from the city so the two could retire together. But as he soon discovered, it was much, much more complicated than that.
K9s are considered city property, and Ohio law states that when they retire, they can only be purchased by an active or retired police officer, or a trainer who specializes in K9s. So Officer Hickey would be a shoe-in, right? No, because of two other caveats: Their human handlers can only purchase the dogs if they’re either elderly or had been injured in the line of duty.
Neither of those situations applied in Ajax’s situation: He was only six years old at the time, and in good health, so he could potentially continue to work as a K9 officer for years to come. But that didn’t sit well with Officer Hickey – he wasn’t just his partner, he was a member of the family.
He even offered to pay the city Ajax’s assessed value, $3,500, but city officials turned him down and instead planned to auction him off to the highest bidder.
“That just sounds so wrong to me, to auction off a living, breathing thing, like you would a desk or a chair,” said his wife, Sandra Hickey.
With an auction, Officer Hickey knew he’d almost certainly be outbid and never see his partner again. But once word of his dilemma got out, community members, even ones he’d never met, took his cause up as their own and set up a GoFundMe account.
They raised an more than $72,000 in the following weeks!
“It made me understand that there’s a lot more good people out there than there are bad people,” Officer Hickey said.
In the meantime, city officials scrambled to avert a community relations disaster-in-the-making. The legal department went to work, and found a possible loophole: If a canine unit is disbanded, the dog’s handlers are allowed to purchase their partners for just $1. But what, exactly, constitutes a canine unit was never specifically defined. Ergo, once Officer Hickey retired, his canine unit had technically been disbanded!
I’m speechless and I’m so very grateful. There’s no way I can thank everybody. I’m so thankful and relieved. There are really good people out here. They’re kind, they’re considerate and they want to make things right. God bless them.
The announcement was made during a press conference in early February, along with some other good news: All the money that had been raised to help Officer Hickey purchase Ajax would instead be donated to Vested Interest, a group that helps provide bullet proof vests to K9 dogs.
Watch the video below to hear more about this incredibly heartwarming story, and share with someone else who needs their faith in humanity restored.