Local News

‘Singing’ K-9 succumbs to cancer

SEBRING - Tears were shed Tuesday as Wyatt, the oldest and the most senior K-9 of the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office, succumbed to an untreatable, fast-growing cancer and was humanely euthanized at home, authorities said. The 10-year-old bloodhound was credited with not only helping to locate 14 missing people but having helped in securing 55 felony and 43 misdemeanor arrests. Fifteen other trails, along with the 127, led authorities to stolen property or articles of evidence, states a news release from the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office. Wyatt, who had been with the sheriff’s office since 2005, began working with partner Deputy Chris Gunter.
In 2010 Deputy Jake Riley became his partner and the two remained together until his death. Wyatt was involved in notable cases, inside and outside Highlands County. In one, he located a strong-armed robbery suspect when called to assist the Martin County Sheriff’s Office in 2009. “As luck would have it, Wyatt and his partner, Gunter, were in training in Martin County when the call came out and they went to assist,” the news release said. Somebody had snatched a purse. “We tracked roughly 300 yards through a wooded area, through a canal and ended up finding the guy,” Gunter told Highlands Today in 2009. The successful catch made local TV news in the Stuart area. In another case in 2010, Wyatt located an elderly person, who had been missing for 16 hours by the time the sheriff’s office was notified. What Wyatt will be most remembered for are his many interactions with the public, the news release said. “He was a favorite with the children, participating in numerous demonstrations at schools throughout Highlands County,” the news release added. He also participated in crime prevention events and was one of “the most popular K-9 members to march in the annual Christmas parades throughout Highlands County, often ‘singing’ throughout the entire route!” Spokeswoman Nell Hays explained that Wyatt “howled” the entire route. “I have no idea why he did that,” she said. “We could never figure out why.” Tuesday, a number of sheriff’s cruisers escorted Wyatt to his final resting place. Sheriff Susan Benton was present when he died. “Our deputies are the most amazing men and women I know. Deputy Riley lost his partner and the community lost a protector. There were tears shed as the life drained out of Wyatt, however, everyone was cognizant that we still have big work in front of us and are ready and committed to our vision of ‘a safer Highlands County,’” she said.