Sheriffs department mourns loss of retired K9 officer Azim

The Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department is mourning the loss of a beloved retired K9 officer who passed away last weekend. 

K9 Azim, who was 11 years old, started his journey with the sheriff’s department in 2014. For the next eight years, Azim and his human counterpart Sgt. Tim Hunn spent their days together, tracking down the bad guys. Their nights were spent with Hunn’s family, of which Azim became an integral part. 

When Azim retired from the department in 2022, the Monongalia County Commission voted to award custody of Azim to his long-time partner and best friend, Sgt. Hunn, a common practice with K9 handlers. 

“It was like having another officer, especially when they were stationed out at the western end of the county,” Sheriff Perry Palmer said of Hunn and Azim’s partnership. “That was [Hunn’s] go-to; I mean, he backed him up. He was a good tracking dog.” 

Spending virtually every minute of every day together for years, the loss of a K9 partner can be particularly devastating for their handlers. 

“It’s like you’re losing another partner,” Palmer said. “You’re talking about being with him 40-50 hours a week working and then at home with his family and everything.” 

Hunn’s grief was evident when he agreed to speak with The Dominion Post earlier this week. 

When then 18-month-old Azim first came into Hunn’s life, their bond grew quickly. 

“He lived outside for about the first six months,” Hunn said. “Then he made his way into the house — he was a family dog.” 

Initially, Azim was certified in narcotics and tracking and eventually learned apprehension and bite work as well, Hunn said. 

“But tracking was his thing. When we got the harness out, he was super excited. It didn’t matter if it was real life or training, as soon as he saw that 15-foot lead — boom! 

“Hell of a tracking dog,” he said, trying to hold back tears. “He was a nice dog, too. He wasn’t aggressive towards anybody.” 

Throughout their partnership Hunn said he and Azim had a lot of finds that were mostly evidentiary, but a few that led right to the culprit. 

“The first time he found somebody on track was my favorite,” Hunn recalled. 

The U.S. Marshals were tracking a suspect in the area and about three hours into the manhunt, the rookie team of Hunn and Azim were called in to assist. 

After a quick briefing from other officers on the direction the man may have headed, Azim was on the trail. 

Azim had not yet been trained in bite work, but the suspect he found hiding in some thick bushes didn’t know that. 

Hunn said the suspect quickly gave up, asking, “Please don’t let him bite me, I’ll come out.” 

A few minutes later, while the suspect was on the ground being searched, Hunn said Azim smelled the man’s leg while going for his reward toy, causing the man panic he was going to be bitten once again.

Hunn said others had passed by the area the suspect was hiding several times that day and no one found him — but Azim did. 

For Hunn, the icing on the cake that day was hearing former sheriff Vic Propst on the radio say, “Good job, Timmy.” 

Much like the suspect on that first track, Hunn said Azim’s presence often struck more fear than the officers themselves. 

“They didn’t care about you. They didn’t care about fighting with you — what they cared about was getting bit and by God that dog would do it if needed,” he said. 

In his retirement years, Azim was diagnosed with a heart condition, but remained loved and pampered by the Hunn family. 

In the end, the sergeant tried everything he could to save his partner, but like many large dogs, Azim suffered a life-threatening condition commonly called “bloat” which occurs when the stomach twists and fills with gas, food or fluid, putting pressure on the dog’s internal organs. Azim’s heart could not handle that pressure. 

“We are going to miss him dearly,” Sheriff Palmer said. “Tim has done a great job.” 

“He was just a good dog,” Hunn said. “He didn’t care about anybody else but me.”

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