The Louisa County Sheriff’s Office is in mourning this week after K9 Officer Rizzo, their eight-year-old black and tan bloodhound, passed away. 

“We have received condolences from Italy, France and Germany,” Lt. Patrick Sheridan said. “Rizzo really touched a lot of lives. As soon as the news broke, we had people bringing us cards and supporting us. The community response was great.”

Rizzo was diagnosed in August of 2017 with Stage II Lymphosarcoma, a type of cancer in the lymph nodes. It is the third most prevalent cancer in dogs, and her prognosis was grim: six to 12 months. Rizzo, however, handled her 19-week chemotherapy “ridiculously well,” according to Dr. Richard Freedman, who cared for her at Albemarle Veterinary Health Care Center. 

She continued to serve both locally and around the world for just shy of two years following her diagnosis, much longer than the initial prognosis. 

“She lived to work, to serve her community,” Sheridan said. “A vital part of her beating it for as long as she did was that we didn’t treat her any differently.” 

Sheridan grew incredibly close with Rizzo, who lived with his family while off-duty, as is typical of K9 units. 

Losing a working animal like a bloodhound is tough. The grief and loss is compounded by the absence of a tremendous resource for search and rescue, as well as crime solving and prevention. 

The sheriff’s office’s newest recruit, Ally, is a bloodhound pup that Sheridan acquired not long ago from a breeder in New York. She is just over one year old and was certified near the end of May by the Virginia Police Work Dog Association. 

“Ally has been doing very well,” Sheridan said. “She really hit the ground running.” 

Her first call was to assist Henrico County with finding a person who was possibly a danger to himself. The mission was successful.

Louisa County Sheriff’s Office bloodhounds have earned the department recognition from all over the world. Sheridan and Rizzo traveled to other parts of the country, as well as to Europe, to teach other organizations how to use the breed’s natural abilities to detect people and objects.

Sheridan said that the worst thing they could have done was not let Rizzo continue to do what she loved most because of her illness. 

As the torch is passed from Rizzo to Ally, and the young bloodhound steps into her important role of protecting and serving people, Sheridan and many others will remember Rizzo’s unflinching loyalty and service to the community. 

“I just want to thank Dr. Freedman and his staff,” Sheridan said. “They cared for Rizzo the whole time and did an excellent job of it. And I want to add that I couldn’t have gotten by without my wife, Ann. She was right there by my side the whole time.”