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story.lead_photo.caption A memorial pays tribute to Chewy, a Little Rock Police Department K9 officer who died last month. - Photo by Gavin Lesnick

The Little Rock Police Department's K9s spend all day working with their officer handlers and then go home with them at night, living in their homes and forming a close bond.

So when one of the K9s dies, it's a loss felt hard by the human handlers who are rarely very far from their four-legged partners.

The strength of that relationship was the motivation behind the agency's first-ever memorial service for fallen K9 officers Thursday. It focused mostly on Chewy, an 8-year-old German Shepherd who died last month after developing health problems, but it served as a tribute to all of the K9 officers who have passed away over the years.

"I would never compare an animal to anyone's child, their brother or their sister," unit supervisor Sgt. Andre Dyer said. "But it's not far from that. To know that you always have backup, to know that you always have something that will lead you into the fire instead of you leading something into the fire or the war is awesome to know."

The service at The Centre at University Park began with the rest of the K9s on the team being led by their handlers to a memorial outside featuring a large photo of Chewy, his collar and his badge.

The handler-K9 teams then made a formation in front of the memorial with the humans saluting and the dogs barking as Chewy's handler, veteran K9 patrol officer Annette Harrington, walked by.

Inside, Dyer led a brief service, recited a prayer and presented Harrington a chew toy signed by all the members of the unit.

Harrington, who is in the process of getting a new K9 partner, said she'll remember Chewy as a part of her family who could seem like a little kid, loved to play and had a "great spirit."

"He took care of me and my family, and he just always wanted to be with us," she said. "And as far as a working dog, he was always ready to work. He was always ready. If we were running code somewhere and my sirens were going, he was just barking and barking ready to go. He really loved what he did. He really, truly did."

Service honors fallen K9 officers

A Little Rock Police Department memorial service on Thursday paid tribute to fall K9 officers, including one who died last month. (By Gavin Lesnick)
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