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.
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.