Staff members at the Chelan County jail are mourning the loss of K9 Kait, the narcotics-sniffing canine who passed away unexpectedly this week.

Kait worked at the jail for more than two years, and was recently diagnosed with chronic hepatitis of the liver.

County spokesperson Jill FitzSimmons says Kait's handler, Corrections Deputy Jacob Lewis, is recovering from the sudden loss.

"The jail is moving forward and Deputy Lewis is working with perspective dogs to ultimately find a replacement for her."

The jail has been looking for another dog to train with Kait until she retired.

"The goal was to get her back and working for another year so that she could potentially help train another dog, and then retire around this time next year, so that she'd have a chance to, kind of, be a dog in her retirement."

Kait had been undergoing treatment for about a week before her sudden death.

She was a key component to the Regional Justice Center’s drug interdiction program. Kait started her job at the jail in November 2020. She became the first canine to be employed in the Chelan County jail and only one of two canines in the state working in a county or municipal jail.

Kait was originally a rescue dog from Quincy, and previously worked for two years at the Tulalip Tribal Police Department.

FitzSimmons said Kait had a unique sniffing ability and training in the detection of six odors, including fentanyl, which allowed her to assist with drug detection for federal agencies and, most recently, area high schools.

In addition, Kait and Deputy Lewis were regular fixtures at local events and schools, serving as ambassadors for the jail.

There's been a grassroots effort to raise money for Kait’s medical costs.

According to FitzSimmons, money raised will be used to cover any remaining medical costs; any additional dollars will to be used in preparation for Kait’s eventual replacement. It is unknown at this time if a public memorial service will be planned.

More From NewsRadio 560 KPQ