Man’s best friend: Former K-9 unit enjoys retirement
by Michelle Babcock
May 18, 2013 12:00 AM | 2031 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Two former Cherokee County Sheriff’s K-9s, Marco and Rico, have retired and are living with their past partners. Sgt. Matt Azaroff and Marco. <Special to the MDJ
Two former Cherokee County Sheriff’s K-9s, Marco and Rico, have retired and are living with their past partners. Sgt. Matt Azaroff and Marco.
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Deputy Darin Downey and Rico.
Deputy Darin Downey and Rico.
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CHEROKEE — Two former Cherokee County Sheriff’s K-9s, Marco and Rico, have retired and are living with their past partners.

Marco served the agency for nine years and was handled by Sgt. Matt Azaroff. Azaroff started with the Sheriff’s Office in 1998 and was assigned to the K-9 Unit in March 2003. Azaroff said Marco has done well transitioning into retirement.

“He still wants to go to work every day,” Azaroff said. “He still remains active and loves to fetch and run.”

Rico served for seven years and was handled by Deputy Darin Downey. Downey started at the Sheriff’s Office in 2002 and has worked in the K-9 Unit since Aug. 2005.

“I thought it would be rough, but (Rico) has handled it pretty good,” Downey said. “Always upbeat and excited to see me, loves attention from the family.”

Marco, 11, and Rico, 9, retired because of age. Azaroff said the most meaningful thing he and Marco did was connecting with children at K-9 demonstrations.

“Being able to talk to them and teach them about what we do and know that they appreciate us, is without doubt meaningful,” Azaroff said.

During the time he worked with Marco, Azaroff said they conducted searches for explosives and fleeing criminals, and even provided preventative searches for two presidents and a vice president.

“He was my partner for nine-and-a-half years,” Azaroff said. “It is a little tough sometimes to not have him with me, but I know it is the best thing for him to relax and not continue to work at his age like the job demands.”

Downey said when he comes home and sees Rico jumping and barking, it brings him joy to remember what they have been through as a team and the things they’ve been able to see over the years.

“Rico was the only thing in this world that I know, when it comes down to needing someone, I could count on him no matter what,” Downey said. “I know he would sacrifice himself to protect me without questions or fear.”

The Sheriff’s Office used seized drug funds to purchase two K-9s to replace Marco and Rico after their retirement. In late 2012, K-9 Maxim joined the force as Azaroff’s new partner and, earlier this year, K-9 Dixon was released from training and started to work fulltime as Downey’s new partner. Dixon is named in memory of Collins Dixon, a Teasley Middle School seventh-grader who died in January of 2012 after a 10-month battle with

cancer.

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