Partners for life

With K-9 Fox lost, Paul Wells breaks in a new partner


After three years on the beat, Fox was called to the scene of a Rhode Island State Police traffic stop.

The car had New York plates that didn’t match the vehicle. Officers on the scene had started searching the vehicle. One of them removed a case of Ensure and set it aside, along the road.

Fox climbed into the trunk. Immediately, he was onto something. He started tearing at the trunk lining, signaling the residual scent of an illicit substance. And then he locked onto the case of seemingly innocuous Ensure meal supplements.

“He started biting it,” Paul Wells said, remembering Fox the day following the retired Warwick K-9 officer’s death. “There were narcotics in the center of the case, surrounded by cans.”

That single bust took narcotics valued at approximately $3.6 million off the street.

Wells served 29 years as a Warwick Police patrolman, but his partner Fox had 56 years on the force — dog years.

Wells lost his partner Fox two weeks ago. Fox was a German Shepherd, born in 2010. The feisty purebred joined the force in 2012 and served through Wells’ retirement.

“That’s a lot of years in dog years,” Wells said.

All that time, but “no pension,” Wells laughed, fondly remembering his late best friend.

Wells and Fox were on the Warwick beat together for nearly seven years, until the pair retired in February 2019. They were amazing years full of high-profile drug busts and live police television appearances.

Soon after retirement, Wells returned to work for the University of Rhode Island Police Department. He’s been training his new partner, Taz, a now four-year-old German Shepherd, since the K-9 was a puppy.

“A lot of it is how we train them,” Wells said. “Train them right and good things will happen.”

The bond between Taz and Wells grows with each investigation and each run through the K-9 obstacle course (in the shadow of the Adult Correctional Institution in Cranston). But Wells is still recovering from the loss of his last partner.

“It’s tough,” Wells explained, just a day following Fox’s death. “I remember the day I brought Fox home. We selected him — picked him … he laid down next to me and rolled over for me to scratch his belly … When we got home, he licked my daughter’s face.”

Fox was a model K-9 officer.

“We look for dogs with that kind of temperament,” Wells explained. “They need to be friendly with people, but they can flip the switch when they need to.”

Primarily, Wells and Fox did patrol work and focused on narcotics busts. Fox could sniff out suspects, missing evidence and handguns.

“We did a lot of work with the DEA (the federal Drug Enforcement Agency),” Wells said. “We were both assigned to the DEA on a regular basis. We seized a lot of narcotics in our time together.”

Over his career, Fox helped to seize more than $5.6 million in narcotics, more than $500,000 cash, and assisted in 14 fugitive and suspect apprehensions, according to Wells.

“Only one apprehension resulted in a physical altercation,” he recalled. “The other 13 just gave up.”

Nearly four years ago, Fox and Wells appeared on LivePD episodes filmed on the streets of Warwick.

“We tracked a guy who allegedly beat up his girlfriend,” Wells said. “It was simply amazing. It’s cool to find narcotics, but to find a human being …”

Fox made countless public appearances. He was a goodwill ambassador for the police; Fox charmed people everywhere he went. Marching in Gaspee Days Parades. Visiting schools. Participating in community K-9 demonstrations.

“It is with a heavy heart the Warwick Police Department announces the passing of Retired K9 Fox,” Warwick Police announced on their Facebook page. “Officer Paul Wells and K9 Fox became partners in March 2012 and worked together until their retirement in February 2019. K9 Fox assisted numerous local, state, and federal agencies. He was also deputized by DEA. K9 Fox became famous when he appeared numerous times on LivePD. Our sympathy goes out to Paul, his wife Amy, and their children. Fox will be missed by everyone here at the police department as well as the community. RIP Fox.”

Fox’s physical health started to deteriorate slowly since his retirement. The dog officer was living at home with Wells. He was more than just a partner, or a dog. Fox was part of the family.

“He’s had some rear hip issues over the past few years,” Wells said. “He was struggling to walk some days. Last Friday, he slipped going down two stairs … I had to pick him up to go outside.”

Wells was reluctant, but said he eventually felt compelled to “make the ultimate decision.”

“If he can’t be a dog, it’s not fair he suffers,” Wells said.

The day after Fox’s last, Wells stood outside the tall barbed wire fences surrounding the maximum security prison in Cranston.

He ran his new partner Taz up and down wooden obstacles and through long black tubes. Taz leapt through windowless severed stand-alone car doors.

The dog would complete an obstacle, and then eagerly return to Wells’ side. Wells gave Taz quiet commands in German and the dog, a bundle of strength and vibrating energy, would comply and collapse in a pile of fur at his best friend’s feet.

“Their bodies physically take a beating over their years of service,” Wells said.

Wells, Taz and Fox have given it all for the populations they protect; they’ve committed their lives to protecting and serving. Man and dogs. Partners against crime.

Watch K-9 Fox’s numerous small screen appearances on LivePD: