LAKE WORTH — Suzie, a bloodhound, traveled north from her home in Coral Springs on Sunday to pay tribute to four fallen colleagues, K-9 officers who have gone on to their reward after a life of crime-fighting.
Kevin Bolling, a Broward Sheriff’s deputy who accompanied his partner to the ceremony, said he was sure the 9-year-old tracker had a deep appreciation for her fellow officers’ sacrifices.
“She gets to be a dog on Sunday,” said Bolling of his companion. “But she loves to be on the job and gets very excited when it’s time to go to work.”
The 20-minute ceremony attended by dozens of police officers, pet owners and dogs of all shapes and sizes was in honor of two West Palm Beach police dogs and two K-9s with the Palm Beach CountySheriff’s Office who recently died of illness or old age.
But a reminder of the dangers of police work came in the ceremony’s setting, a memorial garden at Simmons Veterinary Hospital that features a bronze statue of Drake, a retired Florida Highway Patrol police dog.
Drake, a 5-year-old German shepherd, was shot and wounded during a burglary at his owner’s home west of West Palm Beach in November 2012. The intruders were looking for weapons, police said.
Drake was euthanized when he was unable to recover from his injuries.
Among those who spoke at the ceremony was Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, who provided an update on the criminal case against two men charged in connection with the shooting. They are scheduled to stand trial April 7, he said.
Aronberg and others on hand voiced support for a proposed bill sponsored by state Sen. Joe Abruzzo, D-Wellington, that would make funds available for the care of retired law enforcement dogs. Now the police officers who own and work with the dogs bear most expenses.
“They are considered equipment right now,” said Ken Simmons, owner of the veterinary hospital and sponsor of the memorial service. “We want them to be honored as the heroes they are.”
The memorial, set up in June 2013, includes the names of 112 dogs that served in Broward, Palm Beach and Martin counties, Simmons said. Four were added Sunday.
One of those four was Clue, a bloodhound who earned accolades for his search efforts in PBSO cases involving missing children. He died last month at the age of 10.
Also honored was Deni, a German shepherd and longtime partner of PBSO Sgt. Kevin Marks. He grew emotional as he recalled their years together before Deni died of cancer.
“He was definitely a partner,” said Marks. “You end up spending more time with the dogs than with your family sometimes. He definitely caught a lot of bad guys. It was a gut-check for me when he died.”