FINDLAY - There were plenty of tears shed for Findlay's popular police dog Flip at a memorial service held for him yesterday, but the ceremony ended on a bright note.
Police Chief Bill Spraw announced that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had pledged to buy a new police dog for his hometown. The gift represents the first grant made from the newly established Ben Roethlisberger Foundation.
Chief Spraw thanked Mr. Roethlisberger for his generosity and commended his parents, Ken and Brenda, who were among the crowd of students and community members assembled at Central Middle School auditorium for the memorial.
"Thank you for raising a great son," the chief said, as the audience rose to its feet and applauded.
Findlay police had been undecided about whether to try to replace Flip after the 5-year-old Belgian Malinois was shot to death Nov. 18 by a Jackson Township resident.
The dog had wandered about a half-mile away from the home of his handler, Officer Bryon Deeter, after a member of Officer Deeter's family let Flip out of the house but apparently forgot to let him back in before the family left to go to a relative's house.
Capt. Roger Treece of the Hancock County Sheriff's Office, which is investigating the shooting, said a neighbor who had just pulled into his driveway with his 2-year-old son said he tried unsuccessfully to scare the dog away. He told deputies he went inside and got his shotgun, then shot Flip when the dog began coming toward him.
Captain Treece said investigative reports were turned over Wednesday to the Hancock County Prosecutor's Office, although deputies are still awaiting a final report from the veterinarian who performed a necropsy on Flip and from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, which processed evidence from the scene.
The feelings the Deeter family and Findlay police had for Flip were evident during the nearly hour-long memorial service that included prayers for Flip by the police chaplain, tributes by fellow officers, a bugler playing "Taps," and a bagpiper playing "Amazing Grace." Students from the city's three middle schools and St.
Michael the Archangel School also talked about how they enjoyed having Flip visit their school and lit four candles to represent his four years on the police force.
A tearful Brian Woods, a former Fremont police officer who trained Officer Deeter and Flip, said the bond between a police dog and his handler is a tight one based on trust and respect.
"For those of you who are thinking, 'What's the big deal? This was just a dog.' I wish I could plug you into any one of these K-9 officers here today," Mr. Woods said.
Findlay Police Officer Kurt Necker said Flip had earned the nicknames "Flip the wonder dog" and "Flip the super dog" because he was so proficient in sniffing out drugs and criminals. During his first year on the job, he located 40 pounds of cocaine in a hidden compartment of a car stopped by state troopers on I-75.
"The only thing Flip was missing was a little red cape to wear because it almost seemed like there wasn't anything he couldn't do," added Deputy Ron Digby, a K-9 handler with the Hancock County Sheriff's Office. "It almost got to the point where Flip could type Bryon's reports for him."
Chief Spraw said afterward that he hadn't budgeted for a new police dog and was thrilled when he heard Mr. Roethlisberger wanted to help the city out.
The amount of his gift was not made public, but Stephanie Sandler, chief executive officer of the Giving Back Fund, which helped set up the Roethlisberger Foundation, said the grant would cover the full cost of a new dog and equipment like a K-9 ballistic vest. City officials estimated they had $15,000 invested in Flip, including equipment and training.
"My Dad instilled in me a love and respect for animals," the Steelers quarterback said in a statement. "This is a good way to combine that passion with a desire to support the police and fire departments, which deserve all the appropriate resources needed to protect our cities and neighborhoods."
"Ben loves dogs, and he has a lot of friends on the police department," Mayor Tony Iriti said afterward.
The mayor added that losing Flip was akin to losing a human police officer and pledged to "lead the charge for whatever penalties can be done civilly or criminally" for the loss.
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