Officer Hobie's legs gave out and he collapsed on the clinic's water-soaked floor. His partner, Officer Tim Stanley, crouched beside him, stroking his head as the medical team rushed in and out of the small room with ice packs, wet towels and alcohol to cool him.
One of the technicians said Hobie's internal temperature had reached 108 degrees. His eyes rolled to the back of his head, and he could no longer support his own neck.
Thirty minutes before he collapsed one recent day, Hobie was hot on the trail of a robbery suspect who had snatched $500 from a woman at a bus stop near OrlandoFashion Square mall.
Central Florida's heat index hovered above 100 degrees, and the exhausting work of chasing a suspect through dense brush had taken its toll on both officers.
But the tireless efforts of Hobie — a 4-year-old German shepherd — nearly cost him his life.
"He would have worked himself to death if I'd let him," Stanley said. "These dogs don't give up."
It's a 24/7 job
Hobie is one of the Orlando Police Department's 13 specially trained police dogs. They and their handlers work alternating shifts that keep K-9 officers on patrol 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"This is the hardest-working unit," said Lt. Laura Houston, who oversees the specialty unit and several others. "K-9 teams are sent to make apprehensions when there is a high potential of danger to police officers. The teams enter dark buildings searching for burglars and track suspects who are believed to bearmed and dangerous."
During the past 12 months, the K-9 unit has been responsible for apprehending more than 150 violent criminals, including a DUI suspect who escaped from Orlando Regional Medical Center in May. Stanley and Hobie found the man hiding behind concrete blocks about two hours after the escape.
The K-9 officers are taught to be patrol dogs, and each specializes in sniffing out explosives or drugs. The department's seven explosive-detection dogs sweep large venues, such as Amway Arena, before each event.
Earlier this year, Sgt. Charlie Stewart joined the K-9 unit and was partnered with Officer Bandit, a 6-year-old German shepherd whose original human partner transferred to another unit.
"It was a very unique situation," Stewart said about his partner. "Bandit is a veteran, well-trained dog with a brand-new, 'green' handler."
But during the past eight months, Bandit has become part of Stewart's family. Bandit is Stewart's workout partner — they run three miles a day together. He is a friend to Stewart's young children, and his partner at work.
The dogs, who often live with their handlers, become more than a law-enforcement tool.
"From Day One all K-9 handlers were always taught that our dogs were just a tool," Officer Stanley said. "I spend more time with my dog, my partner, than I do with my family. After they save your life a few times … it becomes tough to just call them a 'tool.' "
'Where is he, Hob?'
On that recent day, Stanley and Hobie were patrolling the Carver Shores neighborhood and on their way to lunch on a recent Thursday when a dispatcher called out a robbery at Orlando Fashion Square, about 10 miles away.
Stanley flipped on the lights and sirens and stepped on it. Hobie braced himself against the plastic wall in the cruiser's modified back seat as the speedometer inched toward 90 mph.