ABINGDON, Va. — Apprehending fugitives with outstanding warrants may sound intimidating, but it was all in a day’s work for Blitz, a Belgian malinois who served for several years as a K-9 with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. His handler, Deputy Thomas Dula, often rewarded him with vanilla ice cream cones.

Dula is now looking back on cherished memories with Blitz after the retired K-9 died early Monday of what was believed to be liver cancer. According to Dula, Blitz was diagnosed last Wednesday.

“Blitz was a remarkable dog,” Dula said in an email. “I’m sure everyone would say that about their dogs but it takes a little something extra to be a police dog.”

In order to become a K-9, dogs are tested for, among other things, their courage and “prey drive” — their confidence in chasing someone down, Dula said.

“They have to be in great shape physically of course, but more than anything else they have to have heart,” Dula said. “Blitz was no exception.”

Blitz, who was 13, joined the Sheriff’s Office when he was 2 years old. Over the course of his eight-year career, Dula said the K-9’s duties included detecting narcotics and apprehending criminals. Blitz also worked with the U.S. Marshals fugitive task force.

Dula, who was previously a deputy at the Sheriff’s Office and is now a police officer with the Bristol Virginia Police Department, worked alongside Blitz between 2011 and 2015.

“He was responsible for the apprehension of numerous wanted subjects as well as the seizure of a large amount of cash and narcotics, which would otherwise have been on the streets of our communities,” Dula said.

Blitz “performed a very valuable service to our agency,” Washington County Sheriff Fred Newman said.

When the K-9 retired in May 2015, Dula adopted him.

“To be a K-9 handler, you’ve got to have a certain demeanor, relate to the dog,” Newman said. “Tom was an excellent handler with Blitz.”

Reflecting on the dog’s retirement, Dula said his beloved companion enjoyed chasing tennis balls, games of tug-of-war and resting in the sun.

“We had a bond that very few people will ever understand,” Dula said. “Only those that have walked in our shoes, or paws in his case, can comprehend the kind of partnership that we had.”

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tdodson@bristolnews.com | 276-645-2567 | @Tim_Dodson

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