K9 Candy, VBSO's first narcotics-detection dog, has final walk-out, end of watch after being diagnosed with terminal cancer
Led by her handler Master Deputy II Anthony “Tony” Natalzia, K9 Candy, the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office’s first narcotics-detection dog, retired valiantly Monday morning after nearly 10 years of service and thousands of operational searches.
The VBSO honored her service by lining a hallway at the Virginia Beach Correctional Center with deputies saluting her final departure from work. K9 Candy, an 11-year-old German shepherd, carried her favorite tennis ball and was escorted by her human family, MDII Natalzia, his wife and their three children.
K9 Candy was set to retire later this year, but the ceremony was expedited after she was diagnosed with cancer last week. “Candy was a true pro. She was the first VBSO K9, the OG,” MDII Natalzia said. “She loved to work; she lived for it. There is no doubt in my mind she stayed strong and continued to fight until she just could not anymore. The bond and trust we had was something I had never experienced before. Candy will be missed.”
The VBSO established its K9 Unit in 2013 with K9 Roxie and K9 Candy in January 2014. K9 Roxie, a Labrador-Schnauzer mix and the office’s first explosive-detecting K9, retired in 2019 at the age of 7 and was succeeded by K9 Gaston, a now 7-year-old German shepherd. VBSO added another drug-detecting dog, K9 Pablo, a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois, last year, and K9 Apollo, a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois currently in training for narcotics detection. The unit has a total of three dogs and three handlers.
Since joining the VBSO, K9 Candy and her handlers have completed thousands of operational searches and helped seize more than 278 pounds of illicit narcotics with an estimated street value of $937,895. She and MDII Natalzia, executed “Operation Candy Crush,” which started in 2015 to crack down on contraband and intoxication within the Correctional Center. Named after K9 Candy, “Operation Candy Crush” was still ongoing with her brilliant sniffer at the forefront. Her last official duty was three weeks ago, when she screened people coming into the jail to serve time in the Weekender Program. Everyone K9 Candy alerted on tested positive for illegal drug use.
“The Virginia Beach Correctional Center and this community are safer thanks to K9 Candy,” said Virginia Beach Sheriff Rocky Holcomb. “We are grateful for her service and for all our K9 deputies and their handlers. This is a hard loss for the VBSO,” Sheriff Rocky Holcomb said.
K9 Candy History
• K9 Candy joined the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office in 2014 through a grant.
• Was trained with combination Norfolk Police Department and Master Trainer Joseph Bartolomeo
• A member of the Virginia Police Work Dog Association
• Since joining the department in 2014, she has completed over 2,900 operational searches
• K9 Candy is responsible for seizing 278 pounds of illicit narcotics with an estimated street value of $937,895 dollars
• K9 Candy was instrumental in the weekender screenings; notedly “Operation Candy Crush”
• K9 Candy routinely conducted parcel interdiction with resulted in numerous felonies across Hampton Roads
• She was also part of the Homeland Security Task Force:
- Screened vehicles during checkpoints on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel
- Screened luggage and people at Norfolk International Airport
- Screened cargo containers and vehicles entering the Norfolk International Terminals
• Worked with numerous jurisdictions to include Chesapeake Police Department, Norfolk Police Department, Portsmouth Police Department, Virginia Beach Police Department and Virginia State Police.
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