January 31, 2016 12:46 PM EST

A retired Ohio police officer has received more than $42,000 in donations to help him keep his longtime K9 partner.

Matt Hickey, who recently retired from the Marietta Police Department after over 30 years, saw an overwhelming amount of support from more than 1,000 people after he was told he’d have to win his partner, a dog named Ajax, in an auction. “Ajax is a family member, one of my children,” he told WBNS-TV. “I was under the assumption I would end up with the dog [when I retired].”

Hickey, 57, had initially offered to buy Ajax from the city for $3,500, which is what the city says Ajax was worth, the news station said. But because the 6-year-old dog is considered public property, he must be sold at auction.

A GoFundMe page set up to help buy Ajax has raised more than $42,000 as of Sunday.

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