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Officer Toby, beloved K9 protector at UNA in Florence, has died

K9 Officer Toby (Image from University of North Alabama Facebook page)

He died Thursday

Posted: Feb 26, 2021 12:21 PM
Updated: Feb 26, 2021 12:25 PM

Beloved K9 Officer Toby at the University of North Alabama has died, the university announced Friday.

Toby worked to protect the university and community since 2011. His Thursday death after a brief illness came just two days before what would have been his 12th birthday.

UNA Officer Greg Kirby said this of his four-legged partner on his Instagram: “I’m not sure what to say about a partner so loving and dedicated to the job as Toby was. … My best friend, my best partner...my family and I loved you so very much!”

Here’s the full announcement from UNA, and below that a Facebook post where people are sharing their memories of Toby.

Toby, the K9 Officer at the University of North Alabama, has passed after a brief illness. He would have been 12 on Feb. 27. Toby worked alongside his handler UNA Officer Greg Kirby and was a fixture on campus and was much beloved at UNA as well as Kilby Laboratory School.

“Toby grew up on the UNA campus serving as our K9 Officer, and our students, faculty, and staff just loved him,” said UNA President Dr. Ken Kitts. “Today, we lost a member of the UNA family, and our thoughts are with Officer Kirby as well as the entire University Police Department as we mourn the loss of this special friend.”

Toby was two when he came to UNA in 2011 from Auburn University as part of a Department of Justice grant. Before his tenure at UNA, Toby spent a year in prison being cared for by prisoners. Not long after, he began his detection training. As a single purpose dog, Toby’s one and only job was to find explosives. He was brought to the Shoals as the nearest K9 explosives dog was an hour away at the time.

After just a few weeks into his training, Toby and Kirby hit their stride as partners, developing a strong bond right away.

“After about two weeks, he became a son,” Officer Kirby said in 2014. “I can’t go anywhere without him following me around. He goes home with me; we’re together 24/7; he’s always around.”

The pair were well-known on campus, and students would flock to Toby, often taking selfies with him and getting in a little much needed pet therapy. Still, as an officer, Toby knew that when his collar and leash were on, it was time to go to work. And his absence will leave a gap not just in the UNA Police Department but across campus, too.

“Sometimes, it is hard to put into words exactly what to say,” said Les Jackson, Interim Chief of the UNA PD. “Toby was a member of our department, our UNA family, and the community. He was loved by so many. Toby served with the department for nine years, and there is no telling how many lives Toby has touched over the years, from the children at Kilby to the students,

faculty, and staff here at UNA. Please keep K9 Officer Greg Kirby and his family in your thoughts and prayers. He has lost not only a partner but a friend and a family member. Toby will be greatly missed.”

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