GAINESVILLE, Fla. – When you retire from the police department before your 20th birthday, it's bound to get attention.
After 11 years on the Gainesville Police Department, 19-year-old Merlin and 18-year-old Zeus are heading to greener pastures. The pair of police horses both came to the department within months of one another in 2006 and have been serving the force ever since.
Merlin is considered the top dog of the four police horses on the squad. Strong and steady in a crowd, police said that Merlin absolutely will not step on a manhole cover. A an Irish Draft/Percheron cross, it comes as no surprise that Merlin's favorite holiday is St. Patrick's Day. He will retired to former mounted patrol unit officer Andrew Hinson.
Zeus has been Merlin's right hand, err, hoof. The two have been friends since arriving at the Gainesville Police Department. As his name would suggest, Zeus has a big personality. He loves dogs and is excellent around kids. Because Zeus has a freeze brand that turned some of his hair white, kids refer to Zeus as the "tattooed horse." Police say that they've yet to find anything that scares Zeus. He will retire to Cheryl Rhoden, who donated Zeus to the department.
Current Gainesville police spokesman officer Ben Tobias, who served on the mounted patrol unit from 2007-2010 and rode both horses said he owes a lot to Zeus.
"During a training day, he tripped while at a full gallop and threw me forwards. Once I hit the ground, I looked up and saw him purposely side-step to avoid stepping on me," Tobias said. "I suppose this made up for his behavior towards me on my very first day on the unit (when) he tried to knock me out with his head when I was putting his halter on."