CENTERVILLE, Utah – He’s a 2-year-old named Joker and he’s a member of the Centerville Police Department, but this particular officer has to take some time off to get a hip replacement.
Joker, a German shepherd, was donated to the department when he was just 8 weeks old, and now he’s a K9 officer.
Jason Read of the Centerville Police Department has been working with the canine for almost a year.
"We started the academy in January, so I've been on the street working with him since about mid-December,” he said. "We've had a lot of success. We've had some really good finds.”
Most recently, Joker sniffed out six pounds of marijuana during a routine traffic stop.
"He's phenomenal,” Read said. “He's become a real integral part of the department. He's become very well loved. Part of the reason for that is he's just a narcotics dog. He hasn't been taught any aggression, so he's very friendly. He loves people."
But Read discovered Joker was struggling—the dog has canine hip dysplasia, and only 5 percent of his left hip is actually in the socket.
"It's genetic; there's nothing we could've done to control it,” Read said.
And Read said the bad news was hard on his whole family.
"I have three children that have become very attached to him, so when I was notified that if we didn't have the surgery he was going to have to be put down, it was a pretty long ride home to the family to explain that to them."
Read said his son’s reaction planted a goal firmly in his mind.
"My oldest son, who's 10, he asked if Santa Claus could bring Joker new hips instead of presents this year, and that was pretty much it,” Read said. “From that point on, we decided we're not losing this dog, no matter what it takes."
Joker will need about 60 days to recover from the surgery before he can get back to work.
"Some days he really struggles to get up,” Read said. “Some days he won't even put any weight on his left leg at all, but he sees that toy or he sees me getting ready for work and he knows exactly what's going on and he knows it's time to go, and he does, he forgets about it."
Joker is expected to serve with the force for about 8 years. So far, he’s been involved in more than 40 searches that resulted in 10 drug-related arrests.
"He's a great dog, great officer, great friend, great partner,” Read said.