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K9 Tica Retires After Eight Years of Service

Photos by Steven Bridges.

For eight years, K9 Tica has used her trusty sniffer to help keep Rocky Top safe.

That’s 272 basketball games, 240 concerts, meets, and special events, and 192 football-related activities for the explosives detection dog.

On March 28, K9 Tica will add another name to her title: retiree of the UT Police Department.

“My goal was to retire her without her having to find anything. I know she’s been successful,” said UTPD Corporal Mary Cameron, K9 Tica’s handler and partner. “Part of what I’ve loved about it is the extra safety and security we’ve offered to campus, unbeknown to students, staff, and faculty. I feel very privileged to have been chosen as a K9 handler for UTPD.”

Tica, a nine-year-old Belgian Malinois, joined UTPD in 2013. She was one of two police dogs who helped launch the department’s K9 program. The other, Bira, passed away in October 2020. Both dogs were born in Poland and brought to the United States through Iron Heart High Performance Working Dogs in Shawnee, Kansas. UTPD currently has four K9 officers.

As an explosives ordnance detection K9, Tica worked with Cameron before events to perform sweeps of venues such as Thompson-Boling Arena and Neyland Stadium.

Football games, the university’s largest events, involved a Thursday night stadium search, Friday search of food vendor and equipment trucks, and Friday night and Saturday searches of the stadium and perimeter.

“As much as Tica barks all day long, as soon as we pull into Pratt Pavilion for basketball or Gate 21 for football, she shuts up because she knows where she is and what she’s about to do. She knows it’s work time,” Cameron said.

Tica’s favorite part of football was the end of the Vol Walk, when she and Cameron got down to Gate 21 to a certain golf cart.

“She would jump up into the back of the gator and she got a bottle of water she got to crunch and play with,” Cameron said. “She chews it to where she gets the top off. Peels the label off. And chew and smash the bottle of water so the water is squirting out at her.”

Tica’s least favorite part of police work? “Being stuck in the car when I would get out on patrol.”

Physically, Tica—who turns 10 in September—is in good health. But within the past year, Cameron began noticing that she was slowing down.

“As a puppy, when you throw that toy she’s ready to go and is foaming at the mouth,” Cameron said. “Now when I throw it, she goes back to the kennel or goes back into the house. In the morning when we were getting ready to go to work, she didn’t have the enthusiasm she has shown. It takes her a few minutes to get into the car.”

Tica’s last football game was December 19. Her final event was a February 18 Lady Vols basketball game. She will spend her last few days before retirement on patrol with Cameron.

Tica will live out her golden years by continuing to be part of Cameron’s family.

“Her retirement will be lying on her bed in the living room, chilling out, going on vacation with us when we can take her, and being spoiled more than she is now,” Cameron said.