During his six years with the Merced Police Department, the officer’s unique skills to sniff out evidence and track down suspects made him a beloved part of the law enforcement team.
Under the morning sunshine Wednesday, fellow officers gathered to remember Axle, who died suddenly of natural causes earlier this month.
While his time with the department was not long by human standards, in dog years, the handsome, black German shepherd was a weathered veteran.
The respected member of the department’s K-9 unit is credited with participating in about 180 arrests and 170 patrol searches, said Sgt. Allan Ward.
Jesse Padgett, the officer who worked with 8-year-old Axle and welcomed him into his own family, said the canine officers are able to help in ways no humans could.
“I just can’t stress how important these dogs are to what we do,” Padgett said.
"Their ability with their noses is thousands of times better than humans," Padgett said. And, when it came to protecting fellow officers, that’s where Axle “really shined,” he said.
“He knew when I was in danger,” he said. “I appreciate the loyalty he showed me.”
Axel’s passing on Oct. 11 came out of the blue, Padgett said.
Padgett told the Sun-Star that one morning, Axel threw up several times, so he took him in to see a veterinarian. It was dog bloat, a condition where the stomach twists, preventing the dog from eating, Ward explained.
He said Axel went into surgery and died shortly after.
“It was extremely sudden and completely unexpected,” Padgett said. “It was something none of us saw coming.”
Officers and the Padgett family gathered at Franklin Pet Cemetery to honor Axle during a simple memorial service.
Axle grew up with Padgett’s two children, Jessica, 8, and Travis, 7.
“He grew up in the middle of the kids,” Padgett said. “He was almost like the middle kid.”
Added Jessica: “He was always nuzzling us before he went to work. He got a lot of back rubs.”
The children’s grandmother, Lori Schuman, said she initially had reservations about having the dog join the family. But her concerns were quickly assuaged.
“He just knew family,” Schuman said. “Maybe because he was raised with the family. The people just loved him.”
Padgett described Axle as a “well-balanced dog,” because he had the skill of knowing when and where to turn off his work mode persona within minutes.
“Their absolutely something special,” Padgett said. “It’s something a human partner can’t replace.”