I'm on break right now. Hard to concentrate at work. Same old hum drum of accidents on icy roads and drunks tonight. Started out as a bright, beautiful day...the sun was shining and some of the snow was melting. It actually got up to 37 degrees...a heat wave.
At about 11:00 a.m., my daughter let out Jake,(the police K-9, retired), to go pee. He took off on his usual route and then darted toward the cliffs and the river. I saw him go on the trail by the brush where the pheasants hunker down. Now, his spunk is always limited to about 10-15 minutes, 20 tops. He is old, has arthritis, and has had leg surgery over the years. I called him back. My daughter called him back. He didn't come to us.
I got on heavier clothes and went out, following his trail. The bunny tracks were next to his paw prints in the snow and he was on that little bugger's trail. He never catches them, but I am sure the hunt is fun and entertaining even if he never sees the reward of the snatch.
As I came through the brush and trees to the opening of the "mighty" river,( which is about 24 feet deep in places near our house), I pursued the tracks. Once in the opening and gazing around at the partially frozen river, my heart sank. No Jake.
I continued to follow the tracks and they headed, along with the bunny trail, straight out on the ice where there was an opening of water. The sides were thick slippery ice, the middle parts were crunchy. Then I stopped and looked down. My weight had cracked a thick piece of ice and in that area, I was on a floating piece. Yet, the river was too frozen to melt it all the way open. So, realizing it was dangerous, I turned back. But before I did, I saw Jake's tracks heading straight for the edge of the ice. With tears in my eyes, I got back on the bank and ran down the river's edge, calling for Jake, hoping to see him where I could rescue him.
Getting on the phone, I called my husband. He came home to help and discovered the same thing I already knew. He, too, could not go any further on the ice. We scoured the river for miles. Only about 1/4 mile was open water with very slippery icy edges. The rest was frozen shut. I knew Jake couldn't have survived if he fell or slipped in. Now, I was balling.
Going back to the house was the longest trek. What I had to tell my daughter would break her heart. What I had to tell my sergeant would crush his. Jake had been his service dog and he and Jake had won many regional and national awards. They had apprehended robbers together, found evidence, searched buildings, etc., and most importantly...they were companions at work and home. That is a bond I only learned when I had him for the little time he spent with us. I can't imagine over years what that bond entailed. His new police dog had been attacking Jake, so when asked, I gladly offered to take Jake in. He really cared about Jake and I think if he had had a choice, he would have chosen Jake over Max. But Max was in service and Jake was retired. Max didn't like Jake...probably because Jake was famous and the ladies loved him. Yes, us girl cops would baby him any chance we got. Go figure.
We sat down with our daughter and told her the news. She, of course, was hysterical because she treated Jake as her dog. She said it was her fault because she let him out to pee and he didn't come back. It doesn't matter how much you tell your little girl it isn't her fault, she is going to carry the weight of the world. I held her for as long as I could while she cried. I told her Jesus would take good care of him. I can imagine what he will do when each person enters the Pearly Gates. LOL. Look out folks, no one is touching Jesus. Jake is a monster when it comes to protection.
On top of this tragedy, I had to get to work. So, I donned my uniform and gun belt and headed to town. On the way, I called my sergeant, balling, and explained to him what had happened. He was so sad, but so gracious. He said, "At least Jake went out with his boots on. It's ok. It's not your fault. He was doing what he loved to do." Our conversation ended in mid sentence because I think he had to hang the phone up. His voice had started to crack, I heard sniffles, and he last said he had to tell his wife who was also very close to Jake.
Then my daughter called, "Mommy, will you please print those pictures of Jake from your camera. Thank you. I love you." She started to cry and said she had to go now. I arrived at work with my tears wiped away and my sturdy work face on. The guys could tell I was a wreck underneath because something just wasn't right about me. And they pry...because they are "Neanderthals" that don't know when to shut up, but God love them. But, I couldn't tell them yet. It was too new and I couldn't cry in front of them.
Then my husband called and said he had put on the ice rescue suit and went out on the ice to look for Jake. He said Jake's tracks went straight for the water and near the edge...his last tracks were at a run. On the edge of the ice were duck feathers-some on the ice, some floating in the water, and the rabbit tracks had veered to the right. My husband was crying as he told me this and he said, "There is no way. No way he could have survived. It is too cold and frozen and you know what happens in the river. I am sorry. We are all sad."
I snuck into the back hallway of the police department,where they keep Jake's trophies, photos, and newspaper clippings. Not that I don't have access to go there, just didn't want anyone to see me cry. He was a hero to our department for many years and to my little girl for just a short time. Here I am about 6 hours into my 12 hour shift and I have been crying on and off all night alone in my patrol car, in the hallway, in the locker room. Good thing it isn't busy. God must be watching out for me. I have to suck it up. When I go home tonight, I am going to miss my greeting...no more soft warm noses up the butt...Jake will be surely missed by all and especially me.