Whenever rumbles, booms and crashes of sound from the skies herald bad weather, it won't be that bad for Toms River Police Sergeant James Reilly. He'll look up and reminisce a bit, about Thunder, his K9 partner, whose tour of duty is done.

The big, hulking appearance belied an affection for people, love of crowds, and a penchant for performing, according to Sgt. Reilly.

"Thunder performed numerous public K-9 demonstrations," Reilly recalled. "He was a crowd favorite because of his big size and big heart.  Whether performing in front of elementary school children, senior citizens or at the Ocean County Fair every summer Thunder loved the spotlight."

He arrived in the US from Czechoslovakia in 2003 to begin training for service with Toms River Police, Sgt. Reilly said. Many are specialists, but Thunder was a multi-tasker, taking on patrol work and narcotic detection.

"Thunder was eager to perform and easily trained.  He had a unique personality that allowed him to complete all of his duties, while always wanting to be praised," Sgt. Reilly remembered.

Thunder's talents were brought to bear on a wide range of investigations beyond drug-sniffing - including searches for burglary suspects and missing persons, and protection of officers sent to quell major disturbances.

But in narcotics investigations, Thunder was relentless. Sgt. Reilly still has vivid memories of an investigation that kept expanding as the K9 kept probing.

"Thunder gave a positive indication on a hidden compartment in a van that yielded a quantity of cocaine," he said. "As the investigation continued, Thunder was then tasked with conducting a narcotics search on the exterior of multiple storage units."

"Thunder’s positive indication resulted in a search warrant being obtained and a large quantity of cocaine was seized and multiple parties were arrested for narcotics distribution."

In later life, Thunder was one lucky dog, briefly enjoying life in retirement. "Thunder was able to do some of the things he enjoyed most," Sgt. Reilly said, "including spending time with his family and getting his head and belly rubbed."

With fame that stretched throughout Ocean County, Thunder casts a giant shadow, and leaves his successors lofty goals. Fare thee well.

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