Recalling four-legged heroes
The death of a canine officer spurs a memorial to the city's police dogs.
By LaRita Jacobs, Times Staff Writer
Published March 9, 2008
This wax mold will become a bronze monument to remember the city's police dogs. Largo City Manager Norton "Mac" Craig came up with the idea, which will be paid for by donations from city employees.
[Special to the Times]
When a dog dies, a family mourns. When the dog is part of the canine unit of the Largo Police Department, the entire force mourns.
The death of Bear, a police dog who died of cancer of the liver and spleen, spurred Largo City Manager Norton "Mac" Craig to take steps to recognize the importance of police dogs to the city of Largo.
"Our dogs are sworn officers by the laws of the Florida state Legislature," said Craig. "They wear a badge and certainly support our police services."
Bear, an 8-year-old German shepherd, died last March. He was credited with helping catch more than 80 burglars during his five-year police career.
After a bit of searching, Craig found a forgotten plaque at the police department. It commemorated 27 dogs that have served the city since the late 1970s. He thought something more was warranted.
"I thought about a memorial and went to the chief of police. I had already made a decision that funds would only come from the volunteer donations of city employees," Craig said. "The chief made the very first donation."
According to Largo police Lt. Mike Loux, there is a special bond between officers and the dogs.
Dogs train and live with their human partners. The officer is responsible for all aspects of the dog's care, including grooming and feeding.
"It is a big responsibility," Loux said. "You take your work home with you, but when there is an opening, there are typically people beating at the door to go through an assessment to be a canine handler."
The memorial is currently in the creative phases, with plans for a life-size German shepherd cast in bronze. Craig has submitted measurements of one of the Largo police dogs to a bronze artisan and the first wax cast has been poured. He said the final cost has not yet been determined.
As donations for the memorial continue to be collected, there are further considerations. The bronze cast will need a granite base, where names and dates of service will be inscribed. Also, the location must be considered.
Craig would like the memorial to sit in Largo Central Park. But after the theft of a patriotic bronze statue from the park last November, he is cautious.
"It will be near the Cultural Center and the playground," he said. "Probably with a light and a camera on it."
Bear was an 8-year-old German shepherd who served on the Largo police force from February 2002 to March 2007.
He is credited with catching more than 80 burglars and made his first collar on his first day on the job - a teenagersuspected in five burglaries. His partner was Officer Scott Brown.
[Last modified March 8, 2008, 22:34:13]
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