PHOENIX -- Six-year-old Czech shepherd Max and Deputy Sheriff James McFarland have been partners for four years, but now that partnership is about to end.
That's because Max has only months to live after being diagnosed with a type of blood cancer.
"It's a surprise, and devastating when the vet said it was terminal," said McFarland. "Max is only 6 years old, has always been very strong, and is in the prime of his life."
McFarland and Max have gone through 2,000 hours of training together and have been busy while on duty,.
They've taken part in 103 SWAT missions, have been involved in 77 felony arrests, and have swept areas such as the Arizona Diamondback's Chase Field for explosives more than 450 times.
But now Max is retired and stays home on days when he isn't feeling well. Still, McFarland says on some days, his four-legged partner is up and ready to go. On those days, Max is more than welcome to take his longtime place behind McFarland in his MCSO SUV.
While McFarland says he's staying in the K-9 unit, the new dog he's training to replace Max has "big paws" to fill.
The Maricopa County Sheriff's K-9 unit has 22 dogs, but only four are trained for the dual purpose of searching for bombs and regular patrol work.
While each of the dogs is highly trained and special, McFarland says there's only one Max, and he knows he'll be greatly missed.