‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant’

Published 11:45 am Wednesday, January 16, 2019

In Norse mythology, it was believed that warriors were taken in death either to the fortress Valhalla or the meadow Folkvangr, where they would be honored for their bravery in life.

Corp. Hank Fuller with his former canine partner, Thor.

On Friday afternoon, one such contemporary soldier named Thor — albeit a four-legged one — was reverently taken to his own rest.

In life, Thor was a German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois mix who served in the K-9 unit with Southampton County Sheriff’s Office Cpl. Hank Fuller. The dog had already been handled for a year or so before the deputy got custody. After eight weeks of training with Thor, they were together for 10 years always working as a team in the K-9 unit.

“We’ve run numerous tracking and successful finds at the end ranging from criminals to suicides and missing juveniles,” said Fuller. “There were numerous narcotic arrests based on his alertness. I tracked escaped inmates with him.”

The deputy recalled that if he had a person in custody in his vehicle, Thor would bark, letting him or her know he was close by in the attached unit.

Fuller also remembered with a chuckle how comical it was to see the startled reactions of people — including coworkers — when they would walk by the vehicle and Thor would suddenly bark and shake his cage.

The K-9 got to retire two years ago, and Fuller already has his third partner, Kedar.

Anyone who has ever had charge of a beloved pet knows that age and health issues can get the best of them, and at 84 in human years, Thor was no exception.

“It had gotten to the point where he couldn’t get up,” said Fuller. “I knew this would be his last night.”

Deciding that it was time to put him out of his suffering the next day, Fuller went to bring Thor inside the house and be comfortable for one more night.

In trying to pick him up, the dog reacted out of instinct and pain, and bit Fuller in his right arm, deep enough that the corporal had to go to an orthopedic surgeon.

Fuller holds the dog blameless, of course.

Mid-afternoon on Friday, he and Thor rode one last time together in their car, making their way to Wright Funeral Home. There, Thor was gently taken in a pouch by Fuller and other officers. Along the way were other K-9 units at attention.

Southampton County Animal Control Officer Cpl. David Joyner did the procedure that put Thor forever out of his pain. He was then cremated.

Reflecting on what made working with Thor so special, Fuller said, “It’s hard to describe the bond between a canine and his handler. We’re on call 24 hours a day.

“He pretty much is a person. Obviously my partner. He would have my back and fight to death. It’s pretty much an indescribable bond.”

Whether it’s in a majestic hall or a beautiful meadow, Fuller is confident that he and Thor will meet again.

“I do. I anticipate seeing him on the other side.”