What Gunner lacked in first impression he made up in police work.
After Gunner, a Middletown canine officer, was purchased for $6,500 in 2009, he was transported from North Carolina to Middletown in a police cruiser. They stopped about every 100 miles so the dog could rest and be brushed, said Sgt. Andy Warrick, the department’s canine supervisor.
The more they brushed, the thinner Gunner looked.
By the time they arrived in Middletown and pulled into the Middletown Division of Police parking lot, they were greeted by officers and administrators. Warrick remembers their response: “We paid how much for what?”
On Wednesday morning, the canine police community gathered for a memorial service for Gunner, who was killed Monday afternoon in a barn house in Madison Twp. on the property of his handler, Middletown police Officer Dennis Jordan. Jordan said he placed Gunner in the barn for a short time while he ate lunch, and by the time he was alerted the barn was on fire, it was too late for him to rescue Gunner, a 7½-year-old German Shepherd.
The fire is still under investigation, but it’s believed a heater used to keep Gunner warm was the source of the fire, Warrick said.
More than 20 police canine officers representing surrounding cities and counties attended the ceremony at the Middletown canine training facility. Throughout the 30-minute ceremony, the sound of barking dogs was heard.
Warrick said Jordan and Gunner trained for 12 weeks and Gunner was responsible for making several felony arrests throughout his six-year career, including tracking down two armed suspects who carjacked a vehicle in Montgomery County then fled into Middletown.
Gunner uncovered narcotics in the stolen car, then tracked down a second suspect. Warrick called that “outstanding police work.”
Last summer, Gunner was named the top detector in the narcotics division at the U.S. Police Canine Association Regional competition in Kentucky. He was set to compete in the nationals this year.
At the end of the memorial service, Warrick slowly handed a folded American flag to Jordan, who was sitting next to his wife, Middletown police Officer Holly Owens-Jordan, their two children, Tyler and Logan, and his father-in-law, Donnie Owens, a retired Middletown police officer.
Jordan called Gunner “one of a kind.”
Gunner’s death leaves the city with one police canine, Aki. His handler, police Officer Marco Caito, in his third year, said there is “a special bond” between an officer and his dog. He said it’s like the relationship people form with their house pet “times infinity.”
“They become your family,” he said while standing outside his cruiser.
Caito said as he drove his cruiser to the ceremony, down a familiar gravel road, Aki circled in the back of the cruiser.
“He knew it was time to play and work,” Caito said. “He knows he has a job to do.”
The local Fraternal Order of Police Associates is in the process of collecting donations to cover the police dog’s final costs, such as his burial and headstone, as well as for the costs of purchasing and training of a new police dog, Warrick said.
Contributions can be made to FOPA Lodge No. 2, P.O. Box 1218, Middletown, OH, 45042. All contributions are tax deductible.