Stow -- Whether all dogs go to heaven or not, those who knew Nero would very likely agree that he belongs there.
"He was a good dog," said Police Chief Louis Dirker. "He enjoyed his work. I guess that's the best thing you can say about him. He loved being here."
The Stow police K-9, a nine-year department veteran who retired in October, died Jan. 16. He was 10.
"I would say he was universally loved," said Mayor Sara Drew. "A great dog, a great police dog."
The police department posted photos of Nero on the department's Facebook page with an announcement of his death, as well as a sketch of Nero drawn by a Lakeview Elementary School student.
As of Jan. 22, about two dozen people had left comments expressing their sorrow.
"Oh how sad!" wrote one woman. "I too want to send my condolences to Officer Bell and his family! Like all German Shepherds, Nero is now always watchful and will watch and wait....good boy!"
"Oh my goodness, so sad. Nero will definitely be missed," wrote another woman.
Nero lived with his handler, Patrolman Ted Bell, both before and after his retirement.
"Nero will obviously be missed by Officer Bell and his family as well as his Stow PD family," stated the Facebook announcement.
"I'm just grateful he had such a great family to live with," said Drew.
Bell said that two weeks before Nero's death, he took him to a veterinarian to have a growth checked out on his shoulder. An X-ray also included his chest and it was discovered that Nero had lung cancer. Bell said the prognosis was poor and the veterinarian told Bell to just take him home with pain killers and feed him what he wanted to eat.
"He did pretty good for a couple of weeks," said Bell. "I managed the pain. He went at home with his family around him."
The city has two other police dogs, Colt and Spectrum, the latter of whom joined last year, increasing the department's roster of dogs from two to three. Bell now works with a new dog, Mingo. Bell said that while Mingo and Nero never fought, they never became close either, with Nero, "the old man,"wanting to be left alone by the youngster. He said Nero "struggled a bit" in adapting to his retirement.
"He knew I was ready to go to work and he wanted to go with me," said Bell.
Nero, a black sable German Shepherd, was born on June 19, 2003. He joined the force in 2004, filling a vacancy created by the retirement of Bruno, Bell's previous K-9 partner.
He was trained and state certified to both sniff out drugs and track people, as well as to protect Bell and other officers.
"He was an excellent tracker," said Dirker. "He was really known for his nose."
According to the Facebook announcement, "Nero trained and worked many hours throughout his nine years with us; was successful in many searches; located drugs on numerous occasions; apprehended many suspects after successfully tracking them; seized money was awarded to the city on numerous occasions after Nero located it. Nero was also involved in clearing several cases after locating evidence."
Nero's finest hour, or certainly one of them, came in May 2009. Dirker said two men robbed the BP service station at routes 59 and 91, shooting an attendant, who survived, in the stomach. Police chased the robbers south to Tallmadge Circle, where they crashed into a tree.
Both robbers got out of the vehicle and one fell to the ground and was arrested. The other, however, crouched at the side of the vehicle and refused to raise his hands.
"Nero went in there and took him down," said Dirker, adding the man was then arrested.
That action earned Nero the American Red Cross of Summit and Portage Counties' Acts of Courage award in the Animal Hero category in March 2010.
Bell said that when he first got Nero, he could not help comparing him to Bruno, but over time realized that Nero would work out fine.
"He was a great dog," said Bell. "He turned out to be just as good as my old dog. He never gave up. He was full of courage."
Other Facebook comments responding to the news of Nero's death also showed he had an impact.
"RIP Nero... Thank you for your service!" wrote a woman.
"Aww. Well done, Nero. RIP," wrote another.
"From all of us at Summit Metro K9 our condolences. RIP Nero," said another comment.
"RIP Nero," wrote a woman. "Ted, you're an amazing handler and a fine teacher. I'm so sorry for your loss."
"It's sad for the city and sad for the police department," Drew told the Stow Sentry.
Facebook: Jeff Saunders Record