The Toms River Police Department is mourning the loss of a dedicated officer who worked hard assisting investigators with numerous investigations and loved belly rubs in his down time.

Thunder, a Toms River Police K-9 officer, died "peacefully of natural causes," the department announced Thursday. Thunder was Sgt. James Reilly's partner and came to the department from Czechoslovakia in 2003.

The K-9 officer, police said, was cross trained to perform both patrol work and search for narcotics.

"Thunder was eager to preform and easily trained. He had a unique personality that allowed him to complete all of his duties, while always wanting to be praised," Toms River police said in a statement.

When Thunder wasn't on patrol or helping to investigate with his partner, he was showing off his skills to the public. Police say the K-9 performed numerous demonstrations for the community during his career.

"He was a crowd favorite because of his big size and big heart," police said. "Whether preforming in front of elementary school children, senior citizens or at the Ocean County Fair every summer Thunder loved the spotlight."

Thunder was called on many times over the years to assist people. Officials say his duties ranged from tracking missing persons and helping conduct searches of buildings to locating burglary suspects. In addition, he worked with officers to conduct narcotics searches. One of the highlights of his career involved a large drug bust.

Police say Thunder was on a narcotics call with fellow officers when he detected drugs hidden in a van. Once he let police know that there were possible narcotics stashed in a hidden compartment of the vehicle, authorities decided to conduct a further investigation that involved the exterior of several storage units, police said.

"Thunder’s positive indication resulted in a search warrant being obtained and a large quantity of cocaine was seized and multiple parties were arrested for narcotics distribution," police said.

After 10 years of service, Thunder retired from the police force. Since then, authorities say, he's enjoyed his time off.

"Upon his retirement in December 2013, Thunder was able to do some of the things he enjoyed most including spend time with his family and getting his head and belly rubbed," Toms River police said in a statement. "K-9 Thunder will be missed by many."

Toniann Antonelli is a social content producer for NJ 101.5. She can be reached at, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.

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