Nitro the police dog receives a hero's sendoff
Updated Mon. Feb. 6 2006 11:30 PM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
It was a fitting farewell to a hero who lost his life in the line of duty.
Close to 700 human mourners -- mostly police officers plus a number of dog handlers and their canine charges -- attended Monday's funeral for Nitro, a German shepherd police dog who died last month while pursuing a suspected car thief.
They came from across B.C. and Washington state and as far away as Ontario to pay their respects at the ceremony in Vancouver's Seaforth Armouries.
Despite the occasional yelp from some of the puppy police-dogs-in-training who attended the funeral, it was a sombre occasion complete with uniformed officers saluting their fallen comrade.
"Nitro we will miss you. The city is yours pal," said an emotional Sgt. Norm Webster.
Nitro lost his life in the line of duty on Jan. 23 while pursuing a suspected car thief who attempted to escape onto a stationary train. Nitro followed, and at the very moment the dog attempted to leap onto the train, it began to move. Nitro then slipped from the car and was run over by the train.
Those gathered at the funeral gave him a hero's sendoff.
"I regret we lost Nitro in the manner that we did," said Insp. Dean Robinson of the Vancouver Police Department. "We lost one of our own. He wasn't just a dog, He was a loyal and dedicated member of the department and he had a police identification number to prove it."
Robinson has described Nitro as a fearless member of the police department who was passionate about his work. He said Nitro lived for his work, that it kept him young and kept him interested in performing for the police service and for his handler.
Nitro was born in Munro, Wa. in 1997, and received his police badge in 1999.
He was an active member of the department for the next six years, and was a part of Howard Rutter's family. The dog handler's young children were visibly upset at the funeral.
Rutter made a pledge to his partner.
"Some day we'll see him again, and I promise on that day, we'll play ball," Rutter said.
At the end of the funeral, a black urn holding Nitro's ashes was carried out of the armoury. Rutter is expected to scatter the ashes at the Vancouver city limits, with tradition holding that Nitro will watch over the city.
Six other police dogs have lost their lives since the late 1950s while working with the Vancouver Police Department.
Nitro's portrait has been added to a "Wall of Valour" in police headquarters, along with the previous six dogs that died in the line of duty.