Muskegon County K-9 Unit Deputy Jamie Ottinger said for the past six years he has spent more time with his partner, Rex, a German Shepherd, than his own children.

“He worked with me and then he came home with me,” Ottinger talked about the close relationship he had with K9 Rex.

At home, the deputy said K9 Rex would play with his children, but on the job he gave 100% to his assignment.

K9 Rex’s dedicated service to the sheriff’s department and the public came to an early end with his death after a diagnosis of an aggressive form of blood cancer (Subcutaneous Hermangiosarcoma). The diagnosis came during an emergency surgery June 13.

An open house to remember K9 Rex was held at Fricano’s Place on the Lake Michigan shoreline in Muskegon on Thursday, June 28.

Deputy Ottinger scheduled the open house hoping K9 Rex would still be alive and fellow officers, friends and family could thank him personally. However, he lost his K9 partner before the gathering. Other law enforcement K9 teams attended the open house which featured memorabilia and photos of K9 Rex and Deputy Ottinger.

K9 Rex served with the Sheriff’s Office since 2012. A high-energy German Shepherd, he was purchased from White Collar Canine after being hand-picked from the Netherlands. K9 Rex received his “pre-serviced” training at the Southfield Police Department. Both Deputy Ottinger and K9 Rex participated in a five-week training program at Oakland Community College.

K9 Rex and his handler have been credited with finding lost children, tracking wanted suspects, and successful narcotics detection. K9 Rex has touched many lives while serving Muskegon County.

“He worked hard for me,” Ottinger remembered K9 Rex. “We would get called out in the middle of the night.”

The deputy said K9 Rex was trained to detect narcotics, protect his handler, track crime suspects and lost subjects. The pair also attended many community events and came to schools to interact with the public.

While he did his job well, Deputy Ottinger said, “He never had to bite.”

The deputy is hoping to work with another K9 dog in the future, but in the meantime Muskegon County will rely on services from K9 units from the Michigan State Police, and Newaygo and Oceana counties.

Deputy Ottinger said he and K9 Rex have received support from the community, including two White Lake area businesses. Whitehall Pet Practice provided his veterinarian services and Tri-County Feed in Montague provided his food.

“Our plan is to get another dog,” said Muskegon County Sheriff Michael Poulin who attended the open house.

“Obviously, as a service dog he was a part of the law enforcement community,” the sheriff added. “Every department relied on him. We’ll work through this.”