By BONNIE BAILEY

H&T Correspondent

They say dog is man’s best friend, but K-9 Gregor has been more than just a friend to handler Sgt. Mike McPeak. He was also his K-9 partner at the Jonesborough Police Department for eight years, a partnership that ended on May 25 when K-9 Gregor was retired due to health reasons.

“It’s heartbreaking,” McPeak said, watching Gregor explore the lawn of the Jonesborough Police Department. The dog’s back legs wobbled as he walked, but with eyes and ears alert, he forged energetically along, sniffing and searching the ground. “What’s so disheartening about it is he’s so ready to work. He’s so ready to play. He wants to go, go, go.”

Gregor suffers from degenerative myelopathy, a progressive disease in dogs that affects the spinal cord, causing a loss in coordination and weakness in the hind limbs.

“I started noticing a little bit of a change back in December,” McPeak said. “When I was off-duty I would always walk him in the mornings and evenings. One of the trails we walked on, part of it was paved. I noticed (a scraping noise) every six or seven steps. It was his rear right leg.”

As the disease progressed, Gregor had trouble carrying out his duties with the police department, and after several trips to veterinarians and attempted treatments, McPeak said, it became clear that Gregor would not be able to continue in his role as K-9. In fact, it became clear that the 10-year-old Czech Shephard would need extra care as his condition worsened.

But that knowledge didn’t keep McPeak, who has been with the Jonesborough Police Department for 14 years, from adopting Gregor after his retirement from K-9 police work. McPeak gladly took on Gregor’s care.

“He’s very much a part of my family. I haven’t been away from him…” McPeak paused. “It’s been less than a day for over eight years.”

The pair have spent countless hours training and working together and have a strong bond, McPeak said.

“We are required as K-9 handlers to get no less than 16 hours of training per month, and I’ve always gotten anywhere from 25 to 35 hours with (Gregor.) And that’s on-duty. I do a lot off-duty, too.”

Gregor has been a K-9 officer for nine years and has been certified in Narcotics, Tracking and Article and Building Search. K-9s must be certified annually.

Gregor has also had a highly successful career.

“He’s had close to 150 drug-related arrests,” McPeak said.

He’s been utilized not only by the Jonesborough Police Department, but by other agencies and departments as well, including the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the VA, and the FBI.

In addition to his law enforcement work, Gregor has spent a lot of time working with the public, including visits to schools, scout groups, church groups, and participation in festivals and events.

“There’s probably been over a thousand hands on him,” McPeak said. “I’ve done probably close to 100 demos with him.”

He’s great with children, McPeak added.

“I have a 3-year-old and he calls him ‘big brother’,” he said. “He sleeps under my child’s bed. (Gregor) is as friendly as can be.”

Since the disease Gregor suffers from is degenerative, his condition is expected to deteriorate over time.

“It just gradually gets worse,” McPeak said. However, McPeak and his family plan to give Gregor the best retirement possible.

“He’ll get more special treats now,” McPeak said. “Now I take him basically everywhere I go when I’m off work. My wife’s family has a farm and we take him there and let him just play and be a dog.”

McPeak said Gregor has free run of the house, gets the best food and drink, and will be vacationing with the family soon.

“We’re going to try to go to the beach in the next month or so and we’ll definitely be taking him with us.”

Gregor’s health issues came as a surprise, McPeak said, but the shepherd’s life after the police force will be more laid-back, and the former K-9 officer will spend his retirement with his partner, handler, and friend of eight years — and that is what’s important.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” McPeak said.

Gregor’s retirement leaves the Jonesborough Police Department with only one K-9 officer, and due to budget issues, McPeak said, it is currently unclear whether Gregor will be replaced. He hopes, however, to work with another K-9 in the future.