NEW CUMBERLAND - The Hancock County police dog Rudie was remembered Monday as a K-9 who would lay his life down for his handler. A "hyper" dog who worked hard to catch bad guys and was loyal to the end.
The longtime K-9 partner of Hancock County Sheriff's Deputy Scott Gittings, Rudie died on Friday after a veterinarian determined nothing more could be done for him. He was 11 years old.
"Rudie was a member of the sheriff's department, not just a pet," Sheriff Mike White said. "He served us well, and we'll keep him in our memories."
SERVICE FOR RUDIE — Hancock County sheriff’s Sgt. Chuck Stanley addresses the memorial service held Monday for the K-9 dog Rudie, who died on Friday. At right is Deputy Scott Little, a K-9 handler with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department. -- Stephen Huba
Members of Hancock County's law enforcement community filled Courtroom 1 of the Hancock County Courthouse on Monday for a memorial service in Rudie's honor. Officers wore black tape on their badges, just as they do when a fellow officer dies in the line of duty.
White said Rudie was an effective police dog who was instrumental in several drug seizures and felony arrests over the years. Rudie and Gittings became partners in September 2001.
Rudie completed his training in 2003, but Gittings said Monday that when it comes to police dogs "you train almost constantly."
A Belgian Malinois, Rudie served the sheriff's department as one of four K-9 dogs involved with patrol, tracking and narcotics work, White said. Over the course of his career, he helped in the recovery of "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in illegal drugs and in the apprehension of felons, he said.
In one case, Rudie's keen sense of smell resulted in the recovery of $75,000 in cash and a kilo of cocaine from a storage unit in Calcutta, Gittings said. Another time, Rudie's tenacity directed deputies to 10 grams of crystal methamphetamine hidden in a trailer hitch, he said.
"We were on the road together for almost 10 years," Gittings said. "'Rewarding' is the best word I can use to describe it."
Sheriff's Deputy Scott Little and Sgt. Chuck Stanley, both K-9 handlers for the department, got choked up as they talked about Rudie during the service.
"Working with a K-9, let's face it it's not easy. But it's worth it," said Little, who is handler for a German shepherd named Christina.
Stanley remembered Rudie as a "hard hitting" dog who didn't like to have his picture taken. "Rudie started out hyper, but he was able to get more laid back," he said. "Over time ... it worked out great for him. (He and Gittings) bonded really well."
Rudie was retired in March because of diminishing abilities brought on by illness and old age. He was replaced by a German shepherd named Odin, whose handler is Deputy Eric Cline.
Other K-9s in the department are Jesy, a German shepherd paired with Stanley, and Freddie, a German shepherd paired with Deputy Pat Hoder.
Stanley said the sheriff's department has four K-9 units so that one is on duty for each shift. The dogs come from the Czech Republic, Germany and Holland, which is where Rudie was born.
"Our dogs are very brave," Stanley said. "To send them out into the unknown, it's a hard thing to do."
Little credited Rudie with saving Gittings' life at least once, and White and Stanley praised the dog for his service to the public. "It's hard to know how many lives he touched," Stanley said.
Speaking to the assembly at the beginning of the service, the Rev. Scott Ashley, associate pastor of New Cumberland Family Life Center, read the poem "Guardians of the Night" and quoted from John 15:13: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends."
(Huba can be contacted at email@example.com)