As law enforcement officers we put our lives at risk all the time. The risk comes from firearms, knives, disease and anything else that could cause bodily injury or death. We risk our lives for our fellow officers and the public. We depend on each other for protection and to get the job done. If you have an assigned partner in the car, you tend to develop a greater bond with him or her. If an officer loses their life, there is an outpouring of support for the grieving family from fellow officers within and outside the agency.
We honor our fallen officers by wearing a mourning band on our badge, lowering the flags and celebrating their life with a traditional police memorial service. It is a difficult thing to deal with emotionally. When it comes to a K-9 partner, we have a bond with them like no other. We don’t just work a shift together, we live together. We protect our K-9 partner and they protect us. They become part of our family. When it comes to the loss of a police K-9, I feel that we should honor their service, whether that’s with a traditional police memorial service or something a little more private.
Recently, I was browsing a social media site I’m a member of and came across this posting on the Massachusetts State Police page.
“One Last Ride”
By Trooper Christopher Coscia
It was a cold snowy day. Training was canceled due to the snowstorm, and I was left withthe unenviable task of deciding when I should put my partner of nearly nine years to sleep.
Dante was a great dog. He was a big, beautiful, black and tan shepherd. I often described him as a look-a-like for the dog in the show “Run Joe Run,” for those old enough to remember that program. He had a regal look with his big head, ears and large stature. He had his own personality. Most dogs are just dogs, but you sometimes run into ones that are somehow as much human as they are dog. A Type A dog was only to be touched by those closest to him, and sometimes not even by them.
Dante was best described as a one-person dog, and as tough as he was for other people to get close to, our relationship never wavered. Every morning when I opened the door to his kennel he would jump up on me, wrap his paws around my waist, get his morning greeting and pat from me, storm up the stairs, and push the door open, ready to go to work.
During Dante’s career he was able to answer calls in towns as far west as Lee, North Adams, and Shutesbury, and calls as far east as Brighton, and even, for a few of his last successful calls, on the South Shore. Once he was able to track and locate a guy who had just murdered his girlfriend, and another time he located a cash seizure that was several times greater than the previous largest seizure in Commonwealth history. During his career he helped to rid the streets of drugs. He was able to locate and assist in the seizure of more than 1,000 grams of heroin, more than 8,600 grams of cocaine (one seizure alone of more than 7 pounds that had been canned mechanically), more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana, and more than $14,000,000 in cash.
Dante was very intelligent; one day when I was out with him I made the mistake of teaching him to open the cruiser door—a task which took five minutes once I showed him how. From that, Dante figured out that doors open with handles, and all you have to do is grab them with your mouth and pull or turn. He took this new knowledge and taught himself to slide open the door that separated us in the cruiser, his way to always be close to me. While on patrol he would occasionally stick his head through for his occasional ear rub. When you see such a powerful, intelligent dog so helpless at times this somehow made the events that follow even harder.