A PLACE OF HONOR


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For those of us who love dogs, it’s nice to know that a cemetery in San Luis Obispo “On a bluff beneath tall oak trees and overlooking green rolling hills is a resting place and place of honor for those who sniffed out crime and brought down crooks. Here police dogs from one California agency are laid to rest.” I’m grateful to Sue Manning from the Associated Press for this information. This cemetery for K-9s in San Luis Obispo is unique among U.S. law enforcement agencies. It is more common for dogs to be buried or their ashes scattered on their handler’s property or a pet cemetery.

No matter where they end up, dogs who are killed in the line of duty usually can expect to have a funeral similar to that of a slain officer, according to Russ Hess, national executive director of the United States Police Canine Association.

This means a service with eulogies, a color guard and the playing of taps. After all, dogs are members of the patrol force, living with their handlers and their families. In some cities when an officer retires, his dog is retired as well, and for a payment of one dollar, goes with him. A friend of ours in Newark, California has been training German Shepherd dogs for the police department for many years.

The basic characteristics of the German Shepherd make him uniquely qualified for K-9 work. It takes more than just their intelligence and good looks to get them hired for the job. Traits that set them apart from the other breeds include a natural curiosity, athletic ability and the desire to perform a job. Many years ago when I bought my last German Shepherd, a police officer in my neighborhood told me that given enough praise, she would break her back for me. Her loyalty was unquestioned and incredible. This is why there are more German Shepherd police dogs than any other breed.

In larger cities, a K-9 team has many more police dogs so that each one can specialize in a single area such as weapon detection. In smaller towns that only have a single K-9 dog or police dog make it necessary for that one to receive training in all areas of police assistance. This includes drug detection, sidewalk patrolling, suspect apprehension, and corpse finding missions.

German Shepherds are quick at learning hand signals by sight, and they eagerly obey commands given by their owner. I must admit to being a bit of a show-off because I enjoyed placing our last German Shepherd on a spot telling her to stay, while I ran to the other side of the lake, perhaps a quarter mile away, and used only a hand signal to get her to come to me. It shows the intensity of their focus, that she never took her eyes off me. Of course, this was before our population swelled and that walking path is now like a crowded freeway. I would no longer dare to do that, and certainly not with a Jack Russell Terrier.

In the San Luis Obispo cemetery, even dogs who die in retirement go to their final resting place here. Cmdr. Aaron Nix said “The K-9s are deputies” and this was our way of making sure they are honored.

To acquire the land for the cemetery was an easy sell. Confiscated drug money funded the memorial park and jail inmates helped. Now the K-9s have a place waiting for them.

Jake, a drug-detection dog with 900 credited arrests was the first buried there with full honors.

These dogs evoke an outpouring of emotion and a funeral is well-attended by locals who appreciate the service they have given the community. When residents of a town in New jersey learned a K-9 named Judge had Cushing’s disease they raised more than $12,000 in two days last year for his treatment. The German Shepherd caught 152 suspects in a seven-year career.

When Judge could no longer get up, his handler, Cpl. Michael Franks, took him to be euthanized. As he carried Judge into the veterinarian’s office last month, nearly 100 officers from across New Jersey lined up to give the dog one last thank you.

police dog

The German Shepherd in the top picture is our Eliza Jane 11, (Liza), Not a K-9, but still, the Queen of our kennel and Princess of our pack.

Author: kaytisweetlandrasmussen83

I am a retired fine arts teacher, sculptor/painter, writer, and a native Californian. I love my family,dogs, horses, movies, reading and music, probably in that order. I have been married forever to a very nice man who is nice to old ladies, dogs and children.

13 thoughts on “A PLACE OF HONOR”

  1. Could Ziggy go there? He’s pretty good in scaring away pill bugs, barking at his reflection in the window at night, and snuggling. He’s not a deputy but is very loyal

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  2. I’ve wondered from time to time about the attachment that forms between individual police dogs and their handlers. Do they continue to work as a team, or does the dog go along with different officers, depending on need?

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    1. In most police departments, when the officer retires, the dog retires also, and usually for one dollar, they go home with the officer.
      The dogs are quite expensive, many coming from Germany. The training is extensive, and also very expensive, and then the officer to whom the dog goes has to be trained. Another friend, who is a police officer worked with the training of the dogs in his department. There is a specific name for that which unfortunately has slipped my mind at present. As I mentioned, many dogs are trained for specific jobs. My fireman grandson at one time trained briefly to work with the search and rescue dogs such as might be used in event of earthquake or where people would be buried. Some are corpse dogs recognized bodies.

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  3. Kayti, I have always been afraid of German Shepherds having had a bad experience with one as a child. I’m getting over that fear as my dear friend in NJ is now on her second one. That keen intelligence and devotion are such admirable traits. Your Eliza Jane is beautiful and the story of this cemetery for these canine service members memorable. Thank you.

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    1. They are my favorite of all the dogs we have had. My husband was attacked years ago by a G.S. who broke his chain. I came home to find his suit lying on our bed shredded. I’m glad he didn’t hold it against the dog, he just hadn’t seen that it was behind the building that the dog was supposed to protect..
      We have had several counting the ones I had growing up. I’m glad you are beginning to know your friend’s dog. They are protectors and if they feel their family is being threatened they can move quickly. When one grandson was a baby just crawling, he was moving a little too close to the corral fence, and Liza got between him and the fence and kept moving him backward. It was nice to see.

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  4. I know a couple of people who have been involved with bringing home military dogs from overseas. All that you say about their abilities and devotion as police dogs applies in the military, of course. And the bonds seem to be as strong as any human/canine bond in the world, save perhaps some of the herders.

    I’ve always been a little nervous around them, myself, but I was afraid of any dog as a child, so the bigger ones tested me a bit, regardless of temperment. But I wrote about German Shepherds once – or dogs generally. I can’t remember. I’d forgotten the post until I saw the photo up above — it reminded me of the photo I used. I’ll go look and see whatever in the world I was writing about.

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    1. Oh, gosh. I found it. I do believe I’m going to spiff it up and do a repost. It’s from 2009, for heaven’s sake! But it does have the best photo ever of a German Shepherd blogger. 🙂

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    2. I read a book about a soldier who went back to find the dog who had been with him and had saved his life. Can’t remember the name of it.
      The big ones can be intimidating if you haven’t been around them. We’ve had both big and small dogs. I always felt tht the big ones take care of YOU, while you take care of the small ones. That’s just me.

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      1. Well, and there’s this: the only time I’ve been bitten by a dog, it was a tiny thing you hardly could see. But it could see my ankle. 🙂

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  5. It’s funny; big dogs seem to be more dignified and confident, while the little ones want to defend their territory. I was bitt en by a “princess” dog whose owner was holding it, when I ill advisedly reached out to pet it.

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