June 15, 2011
A color guard, bagpipers, motorcade, about 50 law enforcement personnel, including K-9 officer teams from throughout California formed a solemn procession today to honor the service of five K-9 officers and add their names to the "Faithful Partner" memorial that honors California law enforcement dogs killed in the line of duty.
Most of the police officers and sheriff's deputies are members of the Western States Police Canine Association, which sponsored the event on the UC Davis campus, the location of the monument.
The Master of Ceremonies was Dean Bennie Osburn, who welcomed the guests and described how veterinary faculty and staff have been entrusted with treating many police dogs over the years. "We see firsthand the special bond between K9- officer and handler," he said.
Osburn also acknowledged the generosity of the man responsible for the monument. The "Faithful Partner" memorial, erected in 2002 at the School of Veterinary Medicine, was made possible by the late Bill Balaban, a long-time friend of the school whose interest in the health and well-being of animals led him to donate funds to design and build the memorial.
Annette Spicuzza, Chief of the UC Davis Police Department, which helped organize the event, addressed the group, contributing information about the history of animals in law enforcement. She noted that police dogs are trained specifically for duties such as apprehension, searching and detecting (sniffing) as well as community education. Spicuzza said that K-9 officers are often issued a badge and a vest, and they may receive a full police funeral if they die while working with law enforcement. "They truly protect and serve," she said, adding, "These dogs are so much more than a law enforcement tool. We [at UC Davis] are happy to be the home of this very special memorial."
The statue, which features a life-sized bronze German shepherd dog on a black granite star, is a testament to the strong bond of affection and loyalty between police dogs and their officers, who care for the dogs while off duty and include them in their families. Lieutenant Ron Cloward of the Modesto Police Department and president of the WSPCA, explained that a the relationship of a human officer and a K-9 partner is "a special bond of a faithful working partner and a family friend" that will never be forgotten.
As their handlers stepped toward the monument, Cloward read the roll call of the police dogs:
K-9 Niko, San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department
K-9 Sonny, Ventura Police Department
K-9 Billy, Alameda Police Department
K-9 Gauner, Los Angeles Sheriff's Department/Special Enforcement Bureau
K-9 Ike, Palm Springs Police Department
Learn more about the dogs in the online "Tributes to the K-9's"
Spicuzza placed a medallion with the dog's name and the "end of watch" date around each handler's neck. A moment of silence was followed by the flyover of a law enforcement helicopter.
After the addition of these five animals' names, the monument will now display plaques for 39 K-9 officers that have died in the line of duty since 1960.
The nonprofit Western States Police Canine Association promotes strong police K-9 programs and training to enhance law enforcement services. Its mission is to assure professionalism and safety for all working police K-9 teams.
"Faithful Partner" enjoys a prominent place near the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital where faculty members treat more than 35,000 animals every year while teaching essential clinical skills to veterinary students and training veterinary specialty residents. Numerous police dogs over the years have received veterinary treatment for illnesses or work-related injuries requiring emergency treatment, intensive care, surgery, physical rehabilitation, kidney hemodialysis and other specialized services.
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