By Dave Ongie
For Claymore, the hours were long and the work was often stressful.
Claymore was in charge of detecting explosives during his days as an officer with the Tennessee Highway Patrol. He protected tens of thousands of fans while working NASCAR races at Bristol Motor Speedway and NHRA races at Bristol Dragway. He also provided security for a Presidential debate held at Belmont University in Nashville back in 2012.
In addition to his work at high-profile events, Claymore also worked with the TSA agents at McGee Tyson Airport near Knoxville.
Claymore is retired these days, and thanks in part to Rep. John Holtsclaw and Sen. Rusty Crowe, the Golden Retriever will have a little more financial security during his Golden Years. Holtsclaw and Crowe sponsored Public Chapter 426, a state law that went into effect earlier this year. The law provides highway patrol officers who care for their retired K-9 officers with an $85 stipend each month for the rest of the animal’s life.
Travis Eggers – a state trooper and Claymore’s handler – started receiving the monthly stipend back in July. While Crowe said the money won’t be enough to cover all the costs associated with the care of the retired K-9 officers, he said it was a good start toward honoring the services provided by K-9 officers.
“They serve us so well throughout their lives,” Crowe said last Friday during a press conference in Founders Park in Johnson City. “Many of them spend their lives in the back of a squad car and then they never know what kind of situations they’re going to be in. They’re under the same pressures and danger that our human officers are.
“Some don’t survive and many of them are injured, but since they’ve served us so well throughout the years Representative Holtsclaw and I thought it would be the right thing to try to push for retirement assistance to help with all those things the families are going to need throughout the rest of their years.”
Right now, the law applies to K-9 officers serving at the state level, but Crowe urged local city and county commissions to also consider designating funds to help care for K-9 officers who work for city and county law enforcement agencies. The law passed at the state level currently impacts 17 retired K-9 officers, and there are 35 other active animals in line to benefit from the monthly stipend.
Despite the small number of K-9 officers serving the highway patrol, the law traveled a bumpy road from inception to passage. After failing to get enough votes in the Tennessee House of Representatives last year, Holtsclaw and Crowe were able to get the job done this year.
“We had a little excess in the budget, so it made it a little bit easier to pass it this year,” said Holtsclaw, a representative from Elizabethton. “The house is a little bit more difficult than the Senate because we’ve got 99 (members) versus 33. But most of us appreciate what these guys and these dogs do, so it’s a no-brainer just to help offset the costs.
“The dogs have saved many lives and done many good things, so it’s the least we can do.”