clear
Sunday May 3rd, 2015 8:58AM

HCSO canine cop succumbs to cancer

By B.J. Williams News Director
GAINESVILLE - A familiar canine presence will be missing from the Hall County Courthouse after the Tuesday death of Olaf, a German Shepherd whose daily job was to sniff out explosives.

Olaf had been battling cancer, and had undergone surgery, but he couldn't overcome the illness and was euthanized, according to Hall County Sheriff's officials.

Olaf's handler since 2008 was Deputy Rusty Blalock. He said his partner not only worked at the courthouse five days a week, but also he was called into duty for some special assignments.

"We've done 50 sweeps with the Secret Service Uniform Division for [U.S.] Vice-presidents, and of course for the governor," said Blalock.

One of the most high-profile assignments locally was a 2006 Lumpkin County murder case. Olaf was able to sniff out a handgun that had been used in the crime; it was buried in a pasture.

"[He did] over 830 searches, safety sweeps of the courthouse, well over 25 bomb threats, and just all sorts of very good safety things for the community," said Blalock.

Even though Olaf won't be on the job any longer, the courthouse won't go unprotected. Other canines will fill his position on a temporary basis, at least for the next month. In about 30 days, another bomb sniffing dog will be under Blalock's care. That canine officer's name is Star, a female black lab.

Star is a retired Marine Corps bomb dog, according to Blalock.

"She just got back from Afghanistan in October," said Blalock. "We've been training with her, getting her ready." He said he feels she'll be ready for state certification in about a month's time.

Of course, losing Olaf after five years is more than just a professional loss for Blalock. Olaf became part of his family, living at his home, as well as accompanying him to work daily.

"I have spent just untold amount of hours with Olaf, training him and at home with the family, and he definitely was a gentle gaint."

Blalock said his three children understand that Olaf was suffering, since the cancer had spread throughout his body.

"Olaf just had surgery last week [at Lance Animal Hospital]and his spleen was removed [because of the cancer] and they had seen the pain that he was in," said Blalock. "They understood it was time, and it was the correct thing to do."

Still, Blalock said his family will miss their companion.

"The youngest one just turned 10 and he just asked basically if Olaf was hurt anymore and if Olaf was in heaven," said Blalock. "And I assured him that he wasn't hurting any more...and that he was in heaven."
© Copyright 2015 AccessNorthGa.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Ethics laws set to take effect Jan. 1 in Georgia
After dominating much of the legislative session, a set of major ethics reforms is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
7:04PM ( 1 year ago )
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Grand jury recommends charging Georgia officer in shooting
A grand jury has recommended criminal charges be considered against an Avondale Estates police officer who fatally shot a 20-year-old man, DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James said.
By Associated Press
8:12AM ( 46 minutes ago )
Dust explosion damages Gainesville business
A dust fire was reported at about 6:15 p.m. Saturday evening at Pilgrim's Pride just off Bradford Street in Gainesville.
By Staff
7:00AM ( 1 hour ago )
Car crashes into Suwanee apartment complex
Residents from five units of a Suwanee apartment complex are being moved temporarily after a car crashed into their building.
9:17PM ( 11 hours ago )
VIDEO: Botanical Garden welcomes first visitors
The new Atlanta Botanical Garden in Gainesville welcomed its first visitors Saturday on 168 acres of land just north of town on U.S. Highway 129.
By Jerry Gunn
2:28PM ( 18 hours ago )
Deal to sign transportation funding bill on Monday
Governor Nathan Deal will sign HB 170, the Transportation Funding Act of 2015, at a ceremony at the State Capitol on Monday.
1:00PM ( 19 hours ago )