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Sunday, January 17, 2010



Bearng Urn

Color Guard

Fellow K9s

Koda's Ashes

Color Guard

Flag Presentation

Funeral Procession

K9 Honor Guard



Saturday 16 January 2010
22:44 Hours Mountain Time


Almost two hundred police service dogs and their handlers lined up at Hillcrest High School to honor one of their own Saturday.

As the remains of Koda, a Midvale police dog allegedly shot by a man accused of attempted burglary on New Year's Day, were marched down the line, dogs were whimpering and barking as if they might have understood what was going on.

Koda's handler hung the dog's leash on the door of the carrier inside his truck and said a tearful goodbye to his partner for the last time. The dog's ashes will remain with the family he protected and loved, and a Midvale officer will soon be traveling to California to purchase a new pooch with money freed up by selling off seized assets from previous police searches in the area.

Nearly a thousand people attended the afternoon memorial service for the three and a half year old Belgian Malinois that had been in service with Midvale for the past year and a half.

Midvale police officer Gerry Wayne, who helped train Koda, read from a letter he wrote to help him with the grieving process, and said that although Koda tried his patience at times, the dog helped him feel confident as a K9 officer. Wayne's first dog had bitten him twice, making for an inopportune experience handling police dogs.

"You were always spinning in circles when you wanted something," he said. "I always thought you had a goal to be a NASCAR dog, the problem is you spun the wrong way."

Koda was assigned to a new handler in the summer of last year, but Wayne said Koda died doing what made him happy, and in turn, "it made me proud."

Koda's handler was less than one hundred feet away when he heard the gunshots allegedly fired by Tevita Talanoa Fisiitalia, who died later that night from a gunshot wound suffered after Koda was shot.

"Officers were in jeopardy from the moment they arrived that night", Midvale Captain Steve Shreeve said during the service for Koda. "He gave his life so others would not have to. He did what he was trained to do."

Shreeve said the service was meant to honor all officers, including K9s, who put their lives on the line every day they serve.

"A primary reason for having dogs is that an officer can go home at night after an experience with a deadly force encounter," said Wendell Nope, an instructor with the Utah Police Academy. He said K9 units know they are more likely to encounter potentially deadly situations because they are used to investigate tough crimes involving drugs, explosives and also to pursue fleeing criminals.

"That's what they do," he said. "They are trained to do what Koda did."

Nope said he believes Koda and his handler will meet again. And when they do, he said the dog, "if he could talk, would say: 'I did good, didn't I, Daddy?' "

No one can describe the bond between a police dog and its handler, said another Midvale K9 officer, Kresdon Bennett. "I'm your right arm, the sword at your side …," Bennett read from a statement describing what it feels like to be "guardians of the night" together.

Next to where Koda would be eagerly awaiting his next duty, sat a water cooler. Soon, his cage will be filled with a new member of the Midvale force, but until then, his leash will hang there, reminding the patrol of the friend and protector Koda was to them.


1 comment:

John Robert Mallernee said...


Like every red blooded American, I also love dogs, and had a canine companion, "Ringo", (who's passed on), when I served my LDS mission guarding a Utah cattle ranch.

But, this is NONSENSE!!!

There's THREE things wrong here.

First, dogs, even police dogs, are NOT equivalent to human beings, and the legislature is wrong in passing laws which equate police dogs to human police.

Second, if this is a predominately LDS community, then why was the dog cremated, instead of being returned to nourish the earth?

Finally, police in Utah habitually misuse the United States flag at police funerals.

Unless they're military veterans, Utah police caskets should be honored with a state flag.

From what I read in the news report, Koda was never a military service dog, so he doesn't rate a United States flag.

I think a private service with just immediate family and coworkers would have been more appropriate.

As I said, I love dogs, especially on buns with mustard, chili, and cheese, but this ostentatious affair was downright blasphemous!

Thank you.

John Robert Mallernee
Armed Forces Retirement Home
Washington, D.C. 20011-8400