St. Petersburg Times Online: Business

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Retirement runaround; night life's a memory

By MICHAEL CANNING, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 23, 2002


After a distinguished career of chasing bad guys for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Officer Sabre has retired to a 100-acre farm in Tennessee.

After a distinguished career of chasing bad guys for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Officer Sabre has retired to a 100-acre farm in Tennessee.

There he swims in the river, sniffs around his property for deer and boar, guards the chicken coop from foxes and opossum, and occasionally scores his favorite treat of peanut butter cookies.

A near idyllic life.

For a dog.

Raised from puppyhood by now-retired sheriff's Deputy Doug Young, Sabre joined the Sheriff's Office in 1994. Within a year, Sabre was a top-rated dog, finishing fifth in the state for the United States Police Canine Association police dog trials. Nationally, he ranked 22nd.

Young estimates the speedy Sabre caught dozens of fleeing suspects during his career, quickly catching up with them, latching his jaws to his quarry's seat pants, and "taking a bite out of crime," as Young puts it.

Sabre, a Belgian malinois, also has a sharp nose. In 1995, he sniffed out Antonio Neal, the fleeing robber who gunned down and nearly killed Tampa police officers Mike Vigil and Kevin Howell.

In 1996, Sabre and Young were participating in a police search for a despondent man in the woods near Gibsonton. Sabre's 30-foot leash kept getting tangled in the dense brush, so Young let go. Before long, Sabre was lost, prompting a full scale police and helicopter search.

Night fell and most feared the worst. But a deputy found Sabre the next morning. The dog was thirsty, his leash caught in the brush. Young, now 53, was radioed immediately.

"You're just overjoyed," he recalled. "It's almost like losing a kid. "

In 1998 Young, Sabre, and Young's wife, former Deputy Beverly Young, retired from the Sheriff's Office and moved to Celina, Tenn. Sabre shares his domain with Rocky, a Rottweiler, and chases rabbits in the Youngs' cow pasture. Though Young says he's "always been a pleasure to work with," Sabre has a mischievous side. He sometimes pilfers eggs from the chicken coop.

"He's always been a chow hound," said Young.

* * *

When Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and R.E.M. came through Tampa in their pre-stardom days, John Vetter was the one who brought them here.

As an underground music fan working his way through college at local clubs, Vetter played a major role in drawing alterative music to Tampa in the '80s and early '90s.

While attending the University of South Florida in 1985, Vetter, now 34, landed two unique jobs: booking concerts for USF's Student Government Productions, and doing the same for Impulse, the forerunner of Ybor City alternative music nightclubs.

Along with USF SGP colleagues Kim Dicce and Gina Margoles, Vetter booked acts that included Sonic Youth, the Flaming Lips, Nirvana, Mudhoney, Camper Van Beethoven, Eugene Chadbourne, Aleka's Attic (which counted the late actor River Phoenix as one of its members), and R.E.M.

Vetter also fed the Impulse's cramped stage with a steady supply from the area's music underground: Psycho Tribe, Pink Lincolns, the Immediates. After two years there, he helped start the Channel Zero nightclub next to Jannus Landing in downtown St. Petersburg. Vetter booked a wild assortment of acts there, from hip-hop to hardcore to death metal and more.

In 1991 he quit Channel Zero and SGP and traveled awhile, crashing at friends' places. After working a few months at the Mueller Baisden ad agency back in Tampa, a Mueller Baisden client named Michael Tubbs offered Vetter a job at a new nightclub called the Rubb, to be built in Ybor City. After the club's belated opening in 1995, Vetter worked another year and a half as the Rubb's general manager before deciding to forego the nightlife. He was married and had young twin sons.

Vetter took a job at Home Shopping Network, where he still works as senior art director. He coaches his boys in Little League soccer, T-ball and flag football. Vetter rarely sees shows anymore.

Does he miss the action?

"Absolutely and not at all," he said. "I had an incredible time, but at the same time I'd never trade where I am."

-- Michael Canning can be reached at (813) 226-3408, or canning@sptimes.com.

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.