Dist. 6’s dog is “always there for us”

Ryder is introduced to his new dog house that was built by the students surrounding it. Sheriff Leon Lott, left, BHS Principal Matt Sherman (5th from left), Deputy Shannon Huffman, Ryder, Deputy Shannon Tolman, and Captain Robert Furgal (standing at right) were on hand to trailer the dog house back to RCSD Station 6 in downtown Blythewood. | Photos: Barbara Ball

BLYTHEWOOD – For local law enforcement officers, some calls are tough – and some days can seem really long.

But at the Richland County Sheriff Department’s Region 6 substation in Blythewood, they know that when they return from a call, they’ll return to a happy greeting – and a wagging tail.

“When we go back to the region [station], it’s like coming home and our dog’s there,” says Master Deputy Shannon Huffman of the Region 6 C.A.T. (Community Action Team), who says the recently adopted blue-gray pit bull mix that now lives there is the sweetest dog – and has really become part of the family for everyone who works out of that location.

“He’s there for us,” Huffman says. “He knows when we’ve had a bad day. He’ll come sit next to us. He’s just always there.”

His name started out as Rider, Huffman says, because he was always hopping in deputies’ cars to go for a ride. But we decided to spell it Ryder in an effort to make it a little more special.

“He’s got this big ol’ head, and he’s about 60 pounds …the friendliest dog you’ll probably ever meet. He doesn’t know a stranger. He loves adults, loves children, loves when we bring people to the [station]. He wants to be involved with them,” Huffman says.

Ryder’s torn tongue is a reminder of his past.

“For everything he’s been through, and whatever past he had, he doesn’t show anything but love. He’s just always happy-go-lucky.”

Ryder was found by deputies when they were out one night on a call. They suspect he escaped a terrible fate as a bait dog, which is used to train fighting dogs to kill, Huffman said.

“He was in relatively good health as far as weight goes,” she said, “but he had a lot of skin issues, and he had markings that were consistent with those of a bait dog.”

He had no microchip, she says, and no one was looking for a dog that matched his description. As days went by, the officers bonded with the dog.

“So, I called Sheriff Lott to ask if we could keep him at the station,” says Captain Robert Furgal who was the station captain at the time. “I told him the dog was a great moral booster. The Sheriff didn’t hesitate. He said, ‘Absolutely.’ Now Ryder is the captain around here,” Furgal said with a laugh.

“He’s been with us since the beginning of last August. He’s definitely our boy,” Huffman says. “He got out from where he was, and however he came to us, we were both lucky.”

Tragically, she says, many sweet and personable dogs are often subjected to cruelty in the dog fighting world.

Ryder, she says, is a very good boy.

“He doesn’t beg, and he’s learning not to jump, but he loves attention – which is perfect because the station is manned every day of the year. So, he has more than two dozen people looking out for his well-being and giving him attention at different times around the clock.

“If we’re doing reports, if we’re submitting evidence files, if we’re on a lunch break, making coffee, doing paperwork – whatever we’re doing, he’s in there with us in the squad room,” Huffman says. “We have a nice, fenced backyard, so if we’re doing paperwork in the car, he’s out there with us.”

This spring, she says, the building construction classes at Blythewood High School built a doghouse for Ryder, which was picked up at the school Tuesday morning, and will be installed under a lean-to in the fenced area. Several officers were at the school to receive the dog house and help load it up and bring it back to the station.

“It’s sad when dogs are abused like Ryder was”, says Lott, who was on hand at the high school Tuesday for the presentation of the dog house to Station 6. “After being rescued, he’s right at home here. Ryder loves everybody and everybody loves him. We hear about the bad things that happen to dogs, but this,” Lott said, referencing the students who built the dog house, “is the good stuff.”

Lott thanked the students and BHS Principal Matt Sherman for building the dog house.

“Ryder is a very special dog,” Lott said. “You can see that.”

Ryder’s basic needs are being funded by the K9 Godmothers, an organization Huffman belongs to that raises money all year long to provide requests for Richland County’s law enforcement working dogs and is currently raising money for a K9 memorial. They decided to help take care of Ryder’s needs, too.

“He loves when we take him for a walk or run. He gets so excited and starts pulling on his leash. But, in general, the only thing he ever does wrong is when we bring him a new stuffed toy, he makes it snow,” she says with a forgiving laugh. “He just loves to de-stuff them,” Huffman says.

“He’s just a wonderful dog,” she says. “He’s always there for us …every day.”

Capt. Robert Furgal, left, and C.A.T. Deputy Shannon Huffman with Ryder.

Contact us: (803) 767-5711 | P.O. Box 675, Blythewood, SC 29016 | [email protected]