Despite a lot of barking online, this tale has a happy ending: A former Ohio police officer was allowed to retire with his police dog partner after all.
Former Marietta police officer Matthew Hickey bought police dog Ajax for $1 Thursday, after the town was subjected to a firestorm of criticism when it initially denied the sale.
"I hope the folks who were so quick to jump on the city of Marietta via social media will now realize the city was always working to let Ajax stay with Mr. Hickey," Marietta Mayor Joe Matthews told NBC affiliate WCMH.
"We just had to follow the law," Matthews said.
Hickey retired Jan. 25 after 34 years on the force, and the city of 14,000 had no plans to use Ajax. An expert determined that Ajax had more years of service left and was worth around $3,000.
The city's law director initially said state law requires that unneeded city property worth more than $1,000 be auctioned off.
The small-town spat gained a national audience online. Outraged donors raised more than $70,000 so that Hickey could blow any other bidders out of contention.
Marietta Police Chief Rodney Hupp proposed that Hickey could sign up to be an auxiliary officer — allowing him to keep Ajax and not run afoul of the law. But Hickey declined, citing health reasons.
On Thursday, Marietta Law Director Paul G. Bertram III reversed course and said after more research he concluded Hickey's canine unit was "disbanded" — a distinction that meant Hickey could buy the dog for $1 under state law.
"I'm speechless and I'm so very grateful. There's no way I can thank everybody. I'm so thankful and relieved," Hickey told the station.
Hickey told the station that the money raised for the dog's purchase would go to Vested Interest, a group that buys body armor for police dogs.