After providing six years of exemplary service to the City of Lenoir Police Department, and providing his handler and family six years of love and companionship, Police K9 Axel passed away yesterday, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, due to cancer.
Axel was born June 30, 2013, in the Czech Republic and was purchased by the City of Lenoir Police Department in August 2014. Sgt. Zachery Poythress trained Axel from start to finish while the sergeant earned certification as a Comprehensive Police Service Dog Trainer and Police Service Dog Team Instructor. Axel certified in October of 2014 and became the City's first Police K9 to be dual certified by two separate associations.
In early November this year, Sgt. Poythress received news that Axel was diagnosed with advanced hemangiosarcoma. Axel did not suffer, but the news was hard on the Poythress family.
"Some people will say that it is just a dog, but they overlook the impact these dogs have on people’s lives," Sgt. Poythress said. "Axel has proven his dedication and love for the people of the Police Department and the city. I would like to express my deepest gratitude for the support of Lenoir Police Department command staff, everyone at the Police Department, and for all the messages and support we have received during this time."
Axel started working for the Police Department in October 2014. During his six years of service, he completed more than 1,000 utilizations including narcotics sniffs, tracks, building searches, article searches, area searches, perimeter security, demonstrations, and training. He was responsible for the seizure of $943,243 worth of narcotics and $82,242 of money, which included the largest seizure of LSD in the history of the department and the largest or second largest seizure of heroin/fentanyl.
Axel completed 52 tracks with 16 finds during his service. Tracks included searching for suspects, missing persons, and lost children. His find percentage of 31% is far greater than the national average of 10 to 12%. Axel participated in many demonstrations at schools, day cares, churches, and civic groups. He could easily switch from working to playing with children, and he loved it. In addition to serving the City of Lenoir Police Department, Axel assisted other agencies 127 times including the Caldwell County Sheriff's Office, Hudson Police Department, Granite Falls Police Department, Hickory Police Department, Valdese Police Department, Burke County Sheriff’s Office, NC Highway Patrol, NC State Bureau of Investigation, US Marshals, and the US Department of Homeland Security.
Sgt. Poythress said that in addition to all of Axel's documented achievements, there is one success that is impossible to measure - the number of times Axel saved lives.
"We could fill up pages with his stats, but the stats we will never know are the countless times he saved my life, another officer’s life, or a citizen’s life by doing his job or by nothing more than his presence," Sgt. Poythress said. "It will never be known the amount of times someone’s mind was changed or a situation was deescalated just by Axel being there."
The City of Lenoir extends sympathies and condolences to Sgt. Poythress, his family, and the Police Department on the loss of Axel. He will be missed. The City also thanks Dr. Rebecca Whisnant at Caldwell Animal Hospital for treating Axel these past two months.
K9 Axel shows off his new, protective vest in April 2018.