MIDDLETON — Ten years and seven years might not seem like a long career — unless you're a dog, in which case it's more like 70 and 49 years, and time to retire.
Chico and Spyder, two very good boys, called it a career during a ceremony Wednesday at the Essex County Sheriff's Department.
"It's important that we show Chico and Spyder how important we know them to be," said Capt. Tom Cote of the Middleton Jail's K-9 Division, where Chico and Spyder were two of a dozen dogs.
Spyder "has been the best partner I've ever had in the cruiser, nice and quiet," quipped Sgt. Jennifer Walsh, who has now adopted Spyder as a pet.
The jail's dogs perform a variety of jobs, including helping in searches and with security inside the jail. They're also called upon to assist local police.
Spyder, for instance, helped find a domestic violence suspect who had fled the scene and hid in the woods of Cape Ann, Walsh recalled, saying that was one of the moments she was most proud of him.
Walsh, who has been on the dog unit since 2007 and previously handled Jake, said she is considering her own retirement in a few years and did not want to start working with a third dog.
Sgt. Gary Mastrangelo has been working with dogs for much longer, starting 22 years ago. He's handled two other dogs in his career, Boi and Oscar.
Mastrangelo brought Chico to public events as well.
Cote said correctional officers who handle the dogs are allowed to purchase them at the end of their service for $1. "They basically become house pets," he said.
During their careers, the dogs maintained a rigorous schedule — as did their handlers. They lived in crates and stayed apart from handler's families. They ate according to a strict schedule.
Now, they'll be free to stay home and bark at squirrels through the window, take naps, and play, like other dogs.
Spyder will have to learn not to get excited when he hears Walsh grabbing the keys to her cruiser or makes that third cup of tea to go.
"I'm sure for the first week, he'll be like, 'Where'd she go?'" Walsh said.
It's also a change of pace for the handlers. When they go on vacation, the dogs can only go to a special police kennel. It's a 24-7 responsibility. Both Walsh and Mastrangelo will move to jobs inside the facility.
Chico is graying around the muzzle and had seniority in the dog unit.
But age hasn't quieted his bark, as he marched past his former canine colleagues and the humans one final time, presumably giving the dog version of shoutouts. The department's other dogs and handlers lined up next to their cruisers, lights flashing, in tribute to the two dogs.
"Chico and Spyder, thank you gentlemen," said Sheriff Kevin Coppinger, "for your dedication and commitment."
Coppinger offered elbow bumps to Mastrangelo and Walsh.
There were no gold watches, and they don't get a state pension, but Coppinger and Cote presented plaque-sized versions of their "badges," a couple of very big bones, and bags of toys.
Cote said they will start looking for replacements this fall.