Hanover Fire/EMS recently announced on Facebook the retirement of one of the department’s “most dedicated” members.

But this retiree won’t be collecting Social Security or moving to Florida. Instead, Captain Nero will be settling into the next phase of his life on a farm in Culpeper County.

Nero, a German shepherd, retired just shy of his 10th birthday after more than eight years on the force.

He received training on detecting explosive compounds in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., before being purchased by Hanover Fire/EMS.

Lt. William Bryant said of the nine dogs he had to choose from in Florida, Nero was the best fit.

“As a canine handler, you’re just looking for certain things, even right down to how the dog feels at the end of the leash,” said Bryant, who is Nero’s handler. “I had a good feeling about him. I worked him the entire week and he just felt right. It’s hard to explain; you just kind of get that dog-handler bond. It was really quick with Nero and I.”

From there, Bryant said they formed an “awesome” relationship, forging a tight bond of trust through roughly 1,800 hours of training and more than 250 service calls.

For three days every month, Bryant and Nero would meet with other law enforcement handlers and dogs from Richmond, Henrico County, Chesterfield County, the Capitol Police and the Federal Reserve to train. Bryant said these days were a highlight of their relationship.

Bryant also said he will remember the long days he and Nero spent working big events.

In September 2015, he and Nero worked nine 12- to 15-hour days for the UCI Road World Championships. The pair also conducted sweeps during visits from dignitaries including first lady Michelle Obama, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and President George W. Bush. The two were “actively involved” in the Richmond inaugurations of Govs. Ralph Northam and Terry McAuliffe, as well as the Washington, D.C., inauguration of President Donald Trump.

Outside of those memorable events, Bryant said any chance he and Nero got to serve the county was important to both of them, from doing school sweeps twice a year to responding to calls. Nero worked right up until his retirement, assisting law enforcement on an incident in South Richmond on his last day.

The German shepherd’s work was “instrumental” in a number of cases — Bryant said it was Nero who found the firearm used in a Halloween 2018 homicide in Ashland.

In a Facebook post, Hanover Fire/EMS wished Nero well and thanked him for his contributions.

“He has been a faithful public servant, honored member of the Office of the Fire Marshal, and valued member of the Bryant family,” the department wrote. “We would like to wish K-9 Nero a happy and healthy retirement.”

Bryant said he has already heard Nero is enjoying his new digs — Bryant gave him to a widowed family friend who has a farm in Culpeper County.

Though he’ll miss his companion, Bryant will be getting another explosives canine, and with all his attention going to the new dog, he knows it would be selfish to keep Nero.

“I’m gonna miss the daily interaction with him, but I know, without a shadow of a doubt, he’s better off with [the friend],” Bryant said. “I’m making two people happy — I’m making her happy, and I’m making him happy.”

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