A Florida police officer is mourning the death of his dog killed by a passing lightning strike in Panama City Beach Sunday.
Cpl. Jason Gleason’s daughter found the lifeless body of K-9 officer Argo behind his kennel on the evening of his death. Local police called out to the scene believe the police dog was struck and killed by lightning because hair was missing, possibly singed off, from its right front paw, according to The News Herald.
According to the National Weather Service, a thunderstorm passed through the area about the same time, and a large number of lightning strikes were reported.
Police Chief Drew Whitman said the dog’s handler was away on training at the time is companion was killed by lightning. Now, he is in the process of grieving from the loss of his longtime partner.
“He is still having a hard time. We just hope Gleason’s alright. It’s going to be a healing process for him. …[Argo was] part of his family. He spent all his time with [him] at work and at home because he would take care of him at home, as well.”
Before Argo, Gleason’s K-9 companion was Poncho, who vanished in the woods after pursuing a number of burglary suspects five years ago. He was presumed dead, and Gleason soon acquired Argo, a Belgian Malinois. The dog soon became a decorated member of the police department.
During his service, the K-9 earned four national awards and were responsible for assisting in the seizure of $25,000 in illicit narcotics. Additionally, he helped in a number of felony arrests and was instrumental in the recovery of several stolen vehicles in his jurisdiction.
The state of Florida is known for having among the largest number of recorded storm strikes on a yearly basis. Most of the Sunshine State experiences daily thunderstorms, mostly in the late afternoon hours when the atmosphere is heating and the ground is cooling.
As a consequence, many people are injured or killed by direct hits or energy that travels a distance along the ground. According to Intellicast, there are at least 16 million lightning storms annually. The best advice is to stay out of the open, away from trees and water at the first hint of bad weather approaching.
The death of a police dog killed by lightning is tragic, but the good news is that three new K-9s will join the department’s ranks soon, and officer Gleason is slated for one.
A memorial service is in the works for the fallen dog.
[Image via Wikimedia Commons]