October 09, 2003
Memorial Service Held For Rexo, The Police Dog
Officer Down: Rexo K-9 - [Greenville, Vermont]
By BILL JONES, The Greeneville (Tenn.)Sun
About 30 people, including law enforcement officers, a judge and veterinary medicine professionals, took part in a memorial service on Wednesday for Rexo, the Greeneville Police Department's former drug-detection dog.
Rexo, a five-year-old German shepherd who had been imported from Holland, died Sept. 20 following surgery to remove a tumor from his liver.
The brief, 12:30 p.m. service was held in a meeting room at the EastView Recreation Center. It featured a greeting from the man who had been Rexo's "partner," Greeneville Police Officer Steve Spano.
The service also featured a scripture reading and prayer by the Rev. Gerald Rudd, pastor of the First Church of God and chaplain of the Greeneville Police Department
"I just wanted to do this for him so people could come by and honor him," Officer Spano told the audience at the opening of the service.
"He was a happy-go-lucky dog. He was pretty much my best friend. I loved him to death, and it was a shock to lose him, especially the way I did."
Arranged on a table at the front of the meeting room were framed photos of Rexo and Spano from their earliest days together in 2000.
Among the photos were several that showed Rexo and Officer Spano with groups of school children, and one that showed the pair with Gov. Phil Bredesen.
Also arranged on the table were Rexo's leash, bullet-resistant vest and favorite chew toy.
At the center of the display was an oaken urn that contained Rexo's ashes. The urn bore a photo of Rexo and a plaque with the inscription: "In Loving Memory of Rexo, a True Friend & Loyal Partner."
After his death, Rexo’s remains were cremated, free of charge, at the Hitchcock Memorial Crematory in Elizabethton. Officer Spano said he wanted to thank that facility for the service it provided.
Partners Since 2000
Before the service, Officer Spano said that in May 2000 he and Rexo became partners at a Texas dog-training facility. "They tried to match the personalities of the dogs and officers," he said.
Officer Spano said that, after he and Rexo began working together, the dog soon learned that whenever he was in uniform, the pair was going on duty.
"He would just sprint out of the kennel and run to the patrol car," Officer Spano said. Speaking wistfully about his late K-9 partner, Officer Spano recalled that Rexo had a keen nose for detecting illegal drugs.
Rexo's biggest "drug find," Spano said, was 14 pounds of marijuana hidden in the closet of a Morristown residence. The illegal drugs were found while he and Rexo were assisting Morristown police.
The dog’s only reward for finding hidden illegal drugs was getting to play with a red chew toy that Spano carried on his belt.
During the ceremony, Officer Spano told the audience that Rexo "loved to work, loved to play and loved to scare people."
He noted that Rexo liked to bark at people who chanced to walk past the K-9 patrol car in which he was kept while on duty.
But Spano said Rexo was not a violent dog and was not trained for attack duty.
During his remarks, Pastor Rudd read a passage from the 22nd chapter of the Bible's Book of Numbers that recounts the story of how a donkey saved its owner, a prophet, from being killed by an angel because the prophet had planned to speak against Israel.
The prophet's donkey, Pastor Rudd said, saw the angel although the prophet could not and turned away from the angel three times, protecting its owner from death "An animal in this particular instance in the Bible gives salvation to an individual who was wanting to do something that was not appropriate," Pastor Rudd said.
"Those of you who are familiar with the work of a police dog know that many times they step into the line of danger on behalf of police officers.
"This gives us three ideas, I think. One is the idea of faithfulness. The second is the idea of caring, and, lastly, the idea of love for the job and for the officer.
"I think it's appropriate here today. We ought to keep in mind that God uses a lot of different people and a lot of different things in our lives to remind us of His faithfulness, of His love and of His caring.
“Today when we come to this location and this time and see the relationship that took place between a man and the dog that served and was faithful to him, that loved him and cared for him, we ought to honor him."
Pastor Rudd said he was sure the officers present realize the service that Rexo provided.
The community at large, he said, "should understand the way God can use the animals that He created to serve mankind as a reminder of the way that God has loved each one of us."
In a prayer offered at the conclusion of his remarks, Pastor Rudd thanked God for Rexo's service to the community.
"We pray that you would give each one of us here a reminder of how the life of this dog shows us about the love of almighty God who gave Himself for us."