Dedicated to those who served without question, loyal to the end.
Submitted by Lieutenant Joseph King
On this past Thursday, May 29, 2014, I had to make the awful decision to put down my partner, K-9 Kallie. It was very sudden and unexpected. The day before, at the end of our work day, I noticed that she was uncharacteristically lethargic; she was having trouble walking, and having trouble breathing. Just a couple of hours prior to that, she was working and seemed to be fine. I rushed her down to the New England Animal Medical Center to be examined, and she was ultimately diagnosed with “hemangiosarcoma,” a type of cancer that I have since learned is very aggressive, very metastatic, and particularly common among German Shepherd dogs. The doctors found two tumors inside of her, one attached to her spleen and one near her heart. The tumors were causing massive internal bleeding, which was causing the lethargy, and the walking and breathing difficulties. They drained the blood that had collected around her heart and that relieved the immediate dangers, but that was only a temporary solution to a very large and serious problem.
On Thursday morning, after a second doctor had reviewed Kallie’s case, the opinion was the same: she had cancer, and it was bad. Surgery and chemotherapy were options, but even the most optimistic scenarios only gave her an additional six months to live, and her quality of life during that time would have been very poor. I didn’t think I could bear to see her labor through pain and discomfort every day for six months, only to die at the end anyway. I decided it was best to just let her go, peacefully and painlessly.
After the decision was made, I sat down on the floor next to Kallie while the doctor administered the medicine. Kallie laid down, put her head on my lap, and went to sleep, forever.
Kallie was a good dog, a working police dog for the Massachusetts State Police K-9 Unit, and she worked hard for the Commonwealth for over seven years. She had a very successful career, and I think she deserves some public recognition for a job well done.
Kallie and I went through Patrol School together during the spring of 2007. We certified as a Patrol Dog Team on June 14, 2007, and we certified as a Narcotics Detection Team on October 25, 2007.
For the next seven years, Kallie and I worked together every day, patrolling eastern Massachusetts and responding to any community that requested K-9 assistance, from Salisbury to Cape Cod. Kallie tracked and located missing and lost hikers in the woods, fleeing felons, domestic abusers, B&E suspects, shoplifters, and various other types of missing and/or wanted people. She found people hiding in thick bushes, in high weeds, in sheds, in swamps, up on roofs, in crowded bus stations, under overturned kiddie pools in back yards, passed out in drainage ditches along the side of the highway. I went to K-9 calls very confident that if someone was there to be found, Kallie would find him (or her, in some cases).
Kallie was not very large for a police dog; she was a female and weighed a little more than 60 pounds. Some of our big male dogs can weigh up to 90 or even over 100 pounds. But what Kallie lacked in size, she made up for in determination: she was 100% committed to the task, every single time. When she was on a hot track, she pulled like a freight train. If I wasn’t paying attention, she could yank me right off my feet, which she did more than a few times. I’ve taken some spectacular falls while trying to keep up with her on tracks through the woods and across snow and ice. I vividly recall one track during a bitterly cold January night when I was literally snow skiing at the end of the leash while she hauled me across a frozen baseball field. Again: she was a sixty pound female; I am a 200+ pound male, plus the additional weight of all my police gear. This was one highly motivated dog.
Her real talent was narcotics detection. During her 7 year career, Kallie sniffed out a total of over 36 kilos of cocaine, 6 kilos of heroin, 369 pounds of marijuana, 123 grams of methamphetamine, and her narcotics alerts contributed to the seizure of approximately $1.6 million dollars in illegal drug money. She located hidden compartments containing illegal drugs built into motor vehicles, built into bookshelves in houses, and in furniture; she located drugs hidden up in ceilings, in the engine blocks and the bumpers of cars, in the headrests of car seats, in storage containers, in suitcases, in packages being shipped through the U.S. Mail, in the pockets of clothes hanging in closets. Words cannot describe the feeling of pride and satisfaction in knowing that your dog located illegal narcotics that most likely would have been missed by humans. A bad guy drug dealer might have been allowed to walk away free, but your dog found his drugs and now he’s under arrest. No better feeling in the world.
Kallie was very popular at our K-9 demonstrations. Because she was very social and had such a nice, calm disposition, she was always chosen to be the “meet-and-greet” dog, the dog that all the children could pet and have their pictures taken with at the end of the demo. I don’t think Kallie particularly enjoyed this duty, having a crowd of small children jostling around trying to pet her, but rather she merely tolerated it because she knew I wanted her to. Nevertheless, she always sat still long enough for every child to have a turn to pet her, and have a picture taken. I think there must be pictures of Kallie in hundreds of family photo albums all over the Commonwealth.
She was calm and quiet at home, great with my family. My neighbors often commented on what a nice dog she was because they never heard her bark; they often forgot that we even had a dog. But when she got in the cruiser with me to go to work it was a whole different story: she was all police dog, eyes open, ears up, and she barked at everybody. I had to keep telling her to shut up so I could hear the radio transmissions. Whenever we were driving to a call with the lights and siren on, she would go bonkers in the back; she very quickly learned that the lights and siren meant that we were going somewhere to do something, and she loved to work. I never had to build up her motivation. Sometimes the challenge was getting her to calm down a little bit.
In June of 2013, I was promoted to Lieutenant and I was lucky enough to stay in the K-9 Unit as the Unit Commander. I was also a little bit unlucky, in the sense that my responsibilities transitioned from being primarily a handler to more of an administrator. This meant I had to spend more time in an office sifting through paperwork, which cut into the time that I could spend with Kallie out answering K-9 calls. I kept her as busy as I could, answering as many calls as possible and always ensuring that she got a lot work done at various K-9 training days during the week.
Our last work day together, Wednesday May 28, was a good day. At 10:00 am we answered a patrol call in Walpole. At 1:30 pm, we answered another patrol call in North Attleboro. At both calls, Kallie was her usual self: motivated, enthusiastic, and happy. She came out of the cruiser like a cannon ball, put her nose to the ground and went to work. It was only after all the work was finished and we were done for the day that I noticed that something was terribly wrong with her.
By 10:00 am the next morning, she was gone.
I’d like to thank Janet, Diane and everyone at the New England Animal Medical Center in West Bridgewater for their kindness and compassion during Kallie’s final hours. They allowed me to take my wife and young boys in after hours on Wednesday night to visit Kallie one last time, to say good-bye. For that I will always be grateful.
Kallie was 9 years old when she died. She was getting ready to retire from police work. I had been looking forward to her retirement, so she could have some time to spend as “just a dog,” to be in the house with my family. I was disappointed that she never got to experience that. However, many of my colleagues in the K-9 Unit have suggested to me that Kallie may not have enjoyed that kind of sedentary lifestyle; she was a working dog, working was what made her happy, she loved it, she lived for it. And truly: she worked, and she was happy, right to the very end.
I think my colleagues are right.
Good girl, Kallie. Free time.
Free Time for K-9 Lando - Submitted by Trooper David Stucenski
I am saddened to report that my partner K-9 Lando (retired), took his last patrol in his beloved cruiser yesterday morning surrounded by family. Lando was assisted across the Rainbow Bridge by Dr. Carolyn Selavka of Baystate Mobile Veterinary Services who cared for Lando for his entire career. Lando worked for the State Police from 2006-2011 when he was forced to retire due to a herniated disc in his spine.
K9 Lando was my first K9 partner and we were graduates of the fall 2006 patrol school led by State Police Sergeant Jerry Molet. Lando was one of the first Belgian Malinois to work for the State Police. During patrol school, Lando showed that he was a fearless partner which he carried onto the street. He pushed me to become a better handler due to his desire and tenacity.
Within his first month on the street he apprehended his first suspect. The suspect was wanted for robbing a convenience store by gun point in the City of Springfield. Lando was able to track the suspect through the contaminated city street and located the suspect hiding on a porch of a residence.
Another highlight of his career was when we were called to a wooded area of the Town of Monson. An elderly man had become lost while out for a walk. Lando and I entered the woods with a search team. After an extensive search located the man and was able to escort him to safety. Once the team handed the man to medical personnel it was learned that the man’s distraught wife had entered the woods to search for her husband and also had become lost. The search team which was led by Lando, entered the woods again, and located the woman, escorting her out to safety.
These are just a few highlights of Lando’s career. During his service, he was able to locate dozens of both suspects and lost people, as well as finding copious amounts of drugs and responsible for seizing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In 2009, Lando and I became one of the first K9 teams to be assigned to the State Police Special Tactics and Operations Team (STOP). He supported the team on many tactical missions throughout the state until his retirement.
The injury that caused his retirement required physical therapy which took place at New England Rehabilitation and Fitness by Therapist Michelle Lewandowski. After initial treatment of the injury, Michelle continued to treat Lando pro-bono with numerous exercises, swimming sessions and whirlpools. This allowed Lando to get the most out of his retirement. Lando enjoyed the attention, as long as he was holding his favorite “purple octopus” toy.
Lando made a smooth transition into his new career; becoming a buddy to my wife Suzanne. They grew close in retirement and he loved the continuous belly rubs and being snuck up on the couch, all while remaining diligent in his new duties. In the end the injury led to complete debilitation and he was no longer able to stand. He began refusing food and water, leading to the tough decision yesterday morning.
I can’t even begin to thank all the people that have touched our lives and helped us in our career. During his final ride I continued to activate the siren periodically; K-9 Lando perked up and gave his patented bark letting me know he was ready to go to work.
“Free Time Buddy! I will miss you!”
One Last Ride - Submitted by Trooper Christopher Coscia
Dante was a great dog. He was 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 waivered. 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 lbs. that had been canned mechanically), more than 1,000 lbs. 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 somehow made the events that follow even harder.
It all started one day while taking Dante out to his kennel. He collapsed on me, falling like a rock with no control of his body. After several tests it was obvious to the vet that Dante had pulmonary hypertension, a disease of unknown cause that prevented him from getting enough oxygen to his lungs and making him collapse. The right side of his heart was enlarged, causing poor blood circulation. As the weeks went on, he started getting seizures because of the same lack of oxygen to his brain. He had one of these seizures in the yard the other day, and after I sat on the ground in the snow with him patting him calmly waiting for it to be over, I came in the house. Upon walking in, to my dismay, I realized my wife and two children had been intently watching us to make sure all was okay. But it wasn’t and when I walked in the door, my wife and daughter were crying, knowing what was to be coming, possibly sooner than we were ready. My son was sitting very somberly, thinking if we don’t dwell on it things it will get better. My son and daughter were 3 and 1 when I, respectively, when I got Dante. They knew him practically their entire lives.
The day came when it was time to take him to the vet for the inevitable. After more than 2,300 rides that we took together, the dog who had trouble making out to the yard just feet away sat upright in his car for One Last Ride.
It was a ride I had I delayed for eight hours, just driving around with him as we did so many times, struggling with the decision to put him down. He sat upright, alert as ever, checking the perimeter always on guard. How does the dog who can barely breathe remain upright and vigilant for so long?
I sit here writing this obituary in a parking lot not two miles before we reached our final destination. My story is as written, and although it jumps about it is written from the heart. I write this story with tears in my eyes and flowing freely down my face. Dante is still somehow sitting upright watching me as I write about him, every once in a while sticking his head through the cage, letting me know things will be alright. But the more he reassures me, the more I wonder if what I am doing is right. I am glad he made it through the holidays. My wife’s birthday was yesterday. I did not want to do that to her; for her to remember her birthday as the day we put down Dante would forever bring a tear to her eye. Much as it does to me as I write this with every new thought and remembrance of my partner, each paragraph brings a new thought and anguish for me.
Submitted by Sergeant Patrick Silva
K-9 Nero was a Belgian Malinois born on July 4, 2005 in Belgium. Shortly after his first birthday he was imported into the United States and began his service with the Massachusetts State Police. He was assigned to be handled by Tpr. Patrick Silva and they began their training together on August 11, 2006. Over approximately the next six years, this team would log over 3500 hours of training to maintain their Patrol and Narcotic certifications. During K-9 Nero’s service he conducted 534 narcotic searches assisting local, state and federal law enforcement agencies within Massachusetts.
On November 22, 2006 a major explosion occurred in the Town of Danvers leaving an entire neighborhood evacuated. K-9 Nero began his career conducting foot patrols of this area during darkness to prevent looting. The K-9 Teams presence was a strong deterrent to those wishing to capitalize on others misfortune.
K-9 Nero located his first of several finds on December 5, 2007 in Peabody. The Peabody Police had requested a K-9 to conduct a building search of a single family home where a breaking and entering had occurred. The Peabody Police were on scene quickly and believed the suspects were still inside the home. K-9 Nero was deployed and the two suspects were located hidden in the attic.
On April 6, 2007, K-9 Nero’s first night of patrol after being Narcotic Certified, he assisted the Essex County District Attorney’s Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration locate 19 kilos of cocaine hidden in a the bed of a pickup truck. This cocaine was bound for the streets of Lawrence. K-9 Nero continued his success at locating narcotics and during his career located a total of 740 pounds of marijuana, 25.5 kilos of cocaine, 458 grams of heroin, 20 grams of methamphetamine, 50 Percocet pills, 250 oxycontin pills, 50 ecstasy tablets and 20 Zoloft pills. Many of the narcotics located were in “hides” of motor vehicle. K-9 Nero was able to locate approximately 35 such hides during his career. K-9 Nero was also instrumental in assisting in the seizure of a total of $626,962 of drug proceeds.
On October 7, 2010 a former Marine Corps sniper had assaulted his girlfriend, set their home on fire and then fled into the woods in Newbury. A search ensued over the next twelve hours involving several members of Troop A, K-9 Units, STOP Team, Airwing and several local police agencies. The search was terminated in the early afternoon of October 8. At approximately 315 PM Newbury Police received a report of a sighting of this subject in the salt marshes off of Orchard Street. The search began and K-9 Nero was deployed to track this subject. The track began in waist deep water and then went over 4 miles through the salt marshes, then into the wooded area , streams and swamps of the Martin Burns wildlife area. The subject was located on a hill hidden behind a rock outcropping. When the tracking team approached the subject attempted to run but K-9 Nero was faster. K-9 Nero was able to grab the subject’s leg and hold him until being placed in custody.
On Thanksgiving 2011 the Lynn Police requested K-9 assistance in locating a lost boy who suffered from medical issues. The Lynnfield Police received a sighting of this boy behind the Kelly Nissan Dealership and K-9 Nero was deployed. The boy was located and returned to his mother fifteen minutes later to go home and enjoy Thanksgiving.
K-9 Nero was a fan favorite at public demonstrations especially the Topsfield Fair. During K-9 Nero’s career the Patriots, Celtics, Bruins and Red Sox had great success and K-9 Nero assisted in making sure the celebrations were done peaceably. K-9 Nero served the Commonwealth with distinction and honor. On June 14, 2012 K-9 Nero became sick and was diagnosed with a fast moving cancer. K-9 Nero was brought home to spend the weekend relaxing with Tpr. Silva’s family and friends. He conducted his last night of patrol for the State Police on the evening shift on Monday June 18, 2012. He became too sick to work after that and on June 21, 2012 K-9 Nero passed away peaceably. K-9 Nero shall rest eternal and join the State Police K-9’s of yesterday enjoying his last command of, “Freetime”.