Deputy Remembers K9 Ryder

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Best friend, partner, guardian angel.

Those were just some of the words Deputy John Kulchar used on Friday to describe Athens County Sheriff’s Office canine Ryder.

Ryder, along with his little brother Bane, lost their lives in a house fire on Thursday afternoon on Luhrig Road in Athens.

“He loved to work. He gave 150 percent all the time,” said Kulchar of his partner of nearly two years. Ryder joined the Athens County Sheriff’s Office in July 2013, working alongside Kulchar.

Kulchar said that since Ryder’s passing he has been approached by many people talking about how Ryder had touched their lives.

Ryder had also been serving as a mentor of sorts to Bane, with the younger dog learning from Ryder how to do things in order to receive rewards.

The two would often romp around playing with one another, with Kulchar noting that if he did not hear the dog tags for a period of time he would go to see what they were into much like a parent would with children.

Asked for one of his favorite memories with his partner, Kulchar recalled a time in October when the two were involved in tracking suspects from a burglary. After tracking for an hour or longer, they caught one of the suspects, a proud moment for canine and handler.

“Deputy Kulchar brought this program to a new level. His dedication to this program is unmatched. We feel K9 and Deputy Kulchar working together has touched countless lives in Athens County,” stated Athens County Sheriff Rodney Smith in a news release of the canine program under Kulchar’s leadership.

Many other agencies and individuals took to Facebook on Thursday and Friday expressing their support, thoughts and prayers for Kulchar and the sheriff’s office during the difficult time.

“Ryder and his chauffeur Deputy John Kulchar assisted the Albany Police Department on many occasions, the most recent was this past Saturday. Ryder was well accepted in every department in the county and let you know it, as he was a leaner, looking for a back rub or head pat. I never saw anyone though, except Deputy Kulchar, convince him to give up his football,” stated Albany Police Chief Robert Deardorff in a Facebook post.

“Some may see a police canine as just a tool to combat crime. In the police community, a canine is more than just a tool. He is your partner, day in and day out, he goes home with you, shares your couch, your bed, and most importantly, your heart. It seemed that Ryder was all of this to Deputy Kulchar, and more, he was like a child,” Deardorff added.

“The Plains VFD is heartbroken by the loss of K9 Ryder and Bane. We’d like to thank all of the agencies that assisted at the scene yesterday,” stated The Plains Volunteer Fire Department Chief Randy Williams in a text message to The Messenger.

“Our wardens have worked closely with Deputy Kulchar and know the significance of a great bond between a K9 and handler. Deputy K9 Ryder served his county well. May he now rest in peace along with his little brother Bane,” stated the Athens County Dog Shelter Facebook post.

A GoFundMe page was set up soon after the fire on Thursday for Kulchar who lost not only his best friends but his home in the fire. Within the first 24 hours the page had raised more than $12,000.

“I am thankful and humbled by the backing of the community,” said Kulchar. He said that support had been pouring in from multiple other agencies, those he had trained with and those in the community.

“I cannot put into words how thankful I am and how thankful Ryder and Bane would be”, he said.

Smith said that the office is taking the time to heal and grieve, but that they will not be giving up on the canine program following the loss of Ryder.

Ryder will be remembered at a public memorial service scheduled for 1 p.m. on Wednesday at Christ Community Wesleyan Church near Albany.

Ohio Fire Marshal spokesperson Lindsay Burnworth said on Friday that the fire remains under investigation, but it has been determined that it was not intentionally set.