Between sniffing out drugs, chasing down suspects and working tooth and nail to protect their partners, patrol dogs do much more with their four legs than the average household pet.
But in one patrol dog's retirement, three legs have proven to be plenty.
Ten-year-old K-9 Buck, one of five patrol dogs working in the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office, was diagnosed with bone cancer in December, Sgt. Robin McIntosh said. Since undergoing surgery to remove his right front leg in early January, the Belgian malinois has been mostly unfazed by his new gait.
On Wednesday, he chased down his favorite rubber toy and padded in circles around his handler, Sgt. Jeff Lauver. Buck will soon begin the first of four rounds of chemotherapy, but deputies expect him to take that treatment in stride, as well.
The K-9 officer's ability to adapt was part of what made him one of the most well-rounded patrol dogs at the Sheriff's Office, said Master Sgt. Jason Covington, who oversees the unit.
"He was kind of the old man of the crowd," Covington said.
Buck's work included tracking suspects and searching for drugs and evidence -- be it in vehicles, homes, post offices or prisons. In two of his best finds, he tracked down discarded murder weapons, Lauver said.
"(That's) always going to be very important to a case. He's telling us it's freshly there," he said, "that it's not something that's been there for years."
That's a crucial distinction deputies can't make on their own, Lauver said.
Buck also has tracked down criminals.
Last January, the dog led deputies from the scene of a burglary in Bluffton's Fern Lakes subdivision to a suspect huddled in the brush behind a home, McIntosh said.
"I think he was just hoping that nobody would find him," Lauver said.
Following a guilty plea last month, 46-year-old Eldredgh Sanders of Columbia was sentenced to 15 years in prison for second-degree burglary, according to court records.
Lauver, who will continue caring for Buck at his home, said he appreciates the dog's successes but has learned more from working with an officer always eager to train.
"The memory is coming to work every day with someone who enjoys just being around," Lauver said. "His reward is a ball, and that's enough."
Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.