Police officers throughout South Florida gathered Wednesday to say goodbye to Max, a highly decorated police dog killed in the line of duty.
“Max was an integral part of the Miami Gardens Police Department ,” Police Chief Matthew Boyd said during the ceremony at Tropical Park in Southwest Miami. “His services will definitely be missed.”
The 5-year-old German Shepherd died from injuries sustained while responding to a burglary call at 740 NW 176th Terrace on Sept 12.
Police dogs often respond to burglary calls to see if there are any suspects still inside, Sgt. John Muclahy said. Their keen sense of smell allows them to quickly do the work of three or four police officers.
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During the search a glass window panel fell on the back of his head. The head injury required emergency surgery and Max was transported to Hollywood Animal Hospital. He did not survive.
About 100 police officers and some of their canine partners from agencies in Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties attended the service. K9 officers from various departments often train together and develop a strong community.
Officer Chris Bezio, Max’s partner, thanked everyone who showed up to “say goodbye to the best partner a handler could ask for.”
Max joined the Miami Gardens K9 Unit in 2009 when he was 13 months old. In his four years of service he apprehended multiple suspects, including a man who sent a police officer to the hospital after a fight.
He was certified in apprehension and explosives detection and received the second highest level of certification in the country. The German Shepherd participated in multiple high profile security sweeps including two presidential visits, a Super Bowl and Heat championship.
“The only thing he would ask for in return was a toy, a scratch under his chin, and the occasional ‘good boy,’” Bezio said.
The service, which featured bagpiper leading the procession to Highland Cathedral, mirrored that of an officer killed in duty. Officers and their canine partners develop a strong bond with one another, Sgt. John Mulcahy said.
Their dogs live with them and the two never stop training. K9 officers spend more time with their god than they do with family members.
Stoic uniformed officers shed tears for Max during the ceremony.
“The bond is stronger than any human bond,” said Mulcahy, who worked as a SWAT officer for 14 years before joining a K9 unit.