Ashland County Sheriff’s Office K-9 handler who touched many lives passes away unexpectedly

ASHLAND COUNTY, Ohio-- Sgt. Tim Kitts, a decorated K-9 officer with the Ashland County Sheriff's Office, passed away unexpectedly Thursday night.

Sgt. Kitts and his K-9 partner Meeko always seemed to be in the middle of a major investigation, whether it was searching for a fugitive on the run, a missing person or illegal drugs being shipped into the area.

"I mean, they were down on 30; they would go out on Interstate 71. They made numerous traffic stops and they come up with drugs. Tim and Meeko were looking for the mother lode; that's what they were doing, out there every day," said Chief Deputy Carl Richert.

Friday, the flags outside the Ashland County Sheriff's Office were lowered to half staff, after Sgt. Kitts' coworkers learned that the 51-year-old veteran died of a suspected heart attack while working in his yard. Meeko was inside the Sgt.'s home at the time, unaware that her partner was in distress.

"Before this happened, we'd say 'who's the healthiest deputy that you have in your agency?' Tim probably would have been the top 3, you know, so you really just don't know and it's really been a tragic thing for us," said Sheriff Wayne Risner.

Because of the close personal and working relationship Sgt. Kitts had with his K-9 partner, the sheriff's department has decided that Meeko will retire and stay with the sergeant's family.

Tim Kitts and Meeko touched many lives during their time together. Just last year, students at Black River Middle School, who knew that Meeko often found herself in harm's way, raised money to buy her a new ballistic vest.

Coworkers said it's now difficult to think of the Sgt. and Meeko not being side by side.

"It's just like God matched those two up, you know, the dog knew what Tim was going to do; Tim knew what the dog was going to do," said Chief Deputy Carl Richert.

Funeral services for Sgt. Tim Kitts will be held next Wednesday in Ashland. We are told his partner Meeko will be at the service.