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Canine Unit : In Memoriam

In Memoriam

Eight Vancouver Police Service Dogs (PSDs) have given their lives protecting the citizens of Vancouver since the Canine Unit was first formed in 1957. Each lived with his handler and was considered a member of their family.

All are deeply missed.

In 1992, the Rotary Club of Vancouver South presented a memorial plaque to Chief Bill Marshall of the Vancouver Police Department on the 25th anniversary of the death of Police Dog Valiant, the first VPD dog killed in the line of duty. The plaque names Valiant and the other police dogs that were killed while on duty since the Canine Unit was first formed in 1957.

A National Police Service Dog Monument was erected June 20, 2007, at the RCMP Canine Training Facility in Innisfail, Alberta.

It is with great honour and pride that the following Vancouver Police Dogs will always be remembered and never forgotten.

Killed on Duty

PSD Valiant

Valiant was the first Vancouver Police dog killed in the line of duty.

At 8:45 a.m. on December 18, 1967, Constable Mike Wellman and his dog Valiant of the Vancouver Police Canine Unit were dispatched to an apartment at 1460 Nelson Street to assist in the apprehension of a prison escapee who had stated that he would not be taken alive.

The wanted man, Joseph McKenna, 32, was known to be armed. He had been serving a life sentence for murder after shooting a man four times in a nightclub argument. Police had received information of the escapee's location and had surrounded the apartment. Officers at the scene called for the man to surrender and kicked open the door. They were answered by two shots fired from a bedroom. The shots entered a doorjamb inches from the officers. Police fired a shotgun blast into the room.

Immediately Police Dog Valiant was released and bounded into the room after the gunman. The man was hiding under a bed and, as the dog pounced, he fired a shot which caused Valiant to yelp with pain.

Wellman called the dog to heel and obediently Valiant returned to his master and sat waiting for the next command. Police again called on McKenna to surrender. He called out that he was giving up and did so meekly. He later told police that he would never have surrendered if it wasn't for the fact that he was scared that the dog would come in again. Police at the scene were not immediately aware that the dog had been shot. Valiant's thick coat hid the bullet wound and there was not much external bleeding.

As the prisoner was being taken out to a police car, Valiant stood guard and it was then that Wellman noticed that his dog was bleeding from the stomach. He was rushed to a veterinary hospital but the wound was serious having punctured a lung, liver, kidney and intestine. Valiant died of his injuries after a three-hour operation.

In 1967, The Vancouver Sun newspaper presented its "Award of Merit" posthumously to Valiant for the most outstanding dog case of the year.

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PSD Justin

Police Dog Justin died May 11, 1976, after responding to a shots fired call. With his handler Constable Gary Foster nearby, Justin flushed the man, Gordon Rudyk, from the bushes at East 2nd Avenue and Garden. The suspect, who left his shotgun behind, ran across the park and Justin was ordered to apprehend him. Justin caught the suspect and took hold of him as he had been trained to do. He was stabbed repeatedly before police officers could assist. The suspect was arrested but not before Constable Foster was himself cut by Rudyk. Justin, mortally wounded, was rushed to a veterinary hospital. He died during surgery.

Justin was awarded the Catherine Price Gold Medal by the S.P.C.A. for his dedication to duty. He was also presented with the Vancouver Sun's 1976 Award of Merit.

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PSD Pax

On July 30, 1977, Police Dog Pax was killed after he tracked a theft suspect off-line to the top of a parkade. As he circled a shed in which the suspect was hiding, Pax jumped the three-foot wall on the outside of the parkade falling seven stories to his death. It was later determined that the suspect had stood leaning over this wall watching the police arrive. His handler, Cst. Mike Harrower, ran down the stairwell to the lane. Pax died in his arms.

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PSD Conan

Police Dog Conan was partnered with Constable Stephen Gibson. He was killed on June 12, 1984, as a result of being struck by a car while searching for a suspect.

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PSD Bobby

Police Dog Bobby was born April 22, 1979, and partnered with Constable Eric Petit. He was killed on December 13, 1986, as a result of being struck by a car while searching for a suspect.

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PSD Mecca

Police Dog Mecca was born on January 22, 1984, and partnered with Constable Mike Lynch. He was killed on October 24, 1988, as a result of being struck by a car while in pursuit of a wanted suspect.

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PSD Sabre

Police Dog Sabre was killed on duty two days before Christmas 1989, while he and his handler, Cst. Gord McGuinness, were responding to a break-and-enter in progress. The police car they were traveling in was cut off by a vehicle which had failed to stop at a stop sign. The police car spun out of control, striking a pole and demolishing the police car. Although Cst. McGuinness escaped with relatively minor injuries, PSD Sabre was not so lucky and did not survive the incident.

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PSD Nitro

Vancouver Police Dog Nitro was killed in the line of duty January 23, 2006 at 10:00 p.m., when he was pulled under a moving train while trying to catch a suspected car thief. His death marked the end of a successful career and partnership with his handler, Cst. Howard Rutter, which began in April 1999.

The fatal incident began when VPD officers in an unmarked car spotted the stolen vehicle in the area of Marine and Argyle and followed it into New Westminster. Cst. Rutter and Nitro were called to assist.

The stolen car drove to Front Street, where the occupants realized they were being followed by police. When a train blocked their escape route, they jumped out of the car and ran. Police Dog Nitro was released and began chasing one of the men, who jumped up on the train. Nitro latched onto him, but the train began moving and he lost his grip. He was sucked under the train and died.

Nitro's death was not just a loss to the department, but a loss to the Rutter family. Police dogs live with their handlers and become part of the family. Nitro joined the Rutter family when he was a pup and grew up with Constable Rutter's two children, aged eight and twelve at the time of Nitro's death. Nitro was due to retire that June.

Guardians Of The Night

Trust in me my friend for I am your comrade. I will protect you with my last breath. When all others have left you and the loneliness of the night closes in, I will be at your side.

Together we will conquer all obstacles, and search out those who might wish harm to others. All I ask of you is compassion, the caring touch of your hands. It is for you that I will unselfishly give my life, and spend my nights unrested. Although our days together may be marked by the passing of the seasons, know that each day at your side is my reward.

My days are measured by the coming and going of your footsteps. I anticipate them at every opening of the door. You are the voice of caring when I am ill. The voice of authority when I’ve done wrong.

Do not chastise me unduly for I am your right arm, the sword at your side. I attempt to do only what you bid of me. I seek only to please you and remain in your favour.

Together you and I shall experience a bond only others like us will understand. When outsiders see us together their envy will be measured by their disdain.

I will quietly listen to you and pass no judgement, nor will your spoken words be repeated. I will remain ever silent, ever vigilant, and ever loyal. And when our time together is done and you move on in the world, remember me with kind thoughts and tales, for a time we were unbeatable. Nothing passed among us undetected.

If we should meet again on another street I will gladly take up your fight. I am a Police Working Dog and together we are Guardians Of The Night.

Author Unknown

 
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