CUYAHOGA FALLS — One thing that could be said for Diesel is that he enjoyed his job.
"He was a great dog, loved his work," said Patrolman Dave Holzapfel, handler for the retired Cuyahoga Falls police K-9. "Definitely that’s what he wanted to do and he started to realize, even when I would put on my uniform and stuff, he would get ready to go and want to play. It’s play for them, but it’s work. Very loving and loyal dog, that’s for sure."
The police department announced Diesel’s death at age 11 on its Facebook page Tuesday, some months after he retired early this year. The comments from the public then began rolling in, more than 300 as of Thursday morning, plus about 960 shares.
"RIP K9 Diesel," says one comment. "May you watch over the Bridge and play forever. Your watch here is done, hero. My heart goes out to your handler, family and family in blue."
States another, "Rest in peace K-9 Diesel, you did an awesome job and now you deserve to run and play in the fields on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge. My condolences Officer Holzapfel, I had the pleasure of watching the two of you do K-9 Demo's a number of years ago — you both were awesome! I am sure his companionship and partnership will be greatly missed."
Police Chief Jack Davis said Diesel was very familiar in the city, often appearing for demonstrations at city events, at Relay for Life, and in the schools.
"He was a great worker for us," said Davis. "He was just a good representative for the police department at all the events he and his handler did. We’ll miss him. He caught bad guys, found drugs, just really did everything we would want from one of our K-9 members."
Holzapfel said Diesel had been suffering from crippling health issues lately.
"He had arthritis really bad in his lower spine and his hips and legs, which is pretty typical for these breeds," said Holzapfel.
Diesel, a sable-colored German shepherd imported from the Czech Republic, started with the department in 2009. He was trained to sniff out narcotics, as well as patrol functions, including article, area and building searches, tracking, and handler protection.
The department currently has two active-duty K-9s, Dan-C, an English springer spaniel, and Figo, a sable-colored German shepherd from Germany who is now partnered with Holzapfel. Holzapfel said Figo is a little over a year old and is trained in narcotics and is wrapping up patrol training.
Police K-9s bond with their human partners for life and this bonding extends to living with their handlers. Diesel was no exception, having a home with Holzapfel and his family, wife Chavon and their 2-year-old daughter Harper.
"Diesel loved [Harper]," said Holzapfel. "They would sit and lay together on the floor."
Holzapfel said Diesel was good with children in general, whether it was at events or visits to the schools.
"He was always very friendly and gentle with all the kids who would pet him," said Holzapfel. "He loved every minute of it."
Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at 330-541-9431, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JeffSaunders_RP.