By Sue Botos
There is a saying among dog lovers that when a canine companion passes away, he crosses the Rainbow Bridge. Rylo, Rocky River’s first K-9 officer, was escorted on his way by a police honor guard and bagpiper at a memorial service on Dec.5.
Bagpiper Bob Kish of the Cleveland Police Pipes and Drums led a procession of K-9 officers from throughout the region into the Don Umerley Civic Center at the beginning of the memorial for Rylo, who was euthanized on Nov. 12 due to complications from compressed disks in his spine shortly after the announcement of his planned retirement in January.
“These critters work their way into our hearts,” said police chaplain Charles Eduardos, stating that he was a dog lover himself. He praised the K-9 for his 10 years of service.
Police Chief Kelly Stillman noted that while Rylo could be fierce in his role as a K-9, he was also a family pet for handler Garth Selong, his wife, Cris, and children Jake, Maddy and Brody. “Garth’s family was important to raising Rylo.” He added that he had a “deep admiration” for what K-9 officers do. “This is a life-altering commitment. It changes life at home and work.
“He went into harm’s way so we
wouldn’t have to,” Stillman commented. He added that Rylo not only relished his
job as a police officer, but loved visiting schools and being an ambassador of the
police department at various events. “He had no agenda, no hidden motives. He loved to work,” Stillman said.
Stillman also challenged Rocky River
K-9 officers Matt Rodriguez and Nate Gonzales to carry on the legacy with their own partners, Diego and Apollo, both grandsons of Rylo.
Tom Schmidt of B.A.R.K. (Buckeye Area Regional K-9), who trained and donated Rylo, also recalled that while the K-9 could hold down a large man with no problem, he would happily walk around schoolrooms unleashed “giving doggie kisses” to children.
“You seldom come across a dog so tough and so social,” Schmidt said, adding that Selong was welcome back to the program. “I hope by early summer I can hand Garth another Rylo grandson,” he stated.
Selong tearfully made his way through his comments, recalling that Rylo had changed many people’s notions about what a police dog is. “He (was) just as unique as his name,” Selong said, adding that he once vowed he would not grieve a dog. “I was the guy who was convinced he wouldn’t be sad when a dog died. You can see how that worked out,” he said wiping away tears. “His age caught up with his body, but not his mind,” he added.
The room was brought to tears again when Stillman initiated the traditional last radio call for a fallen officer. Dispatch called for Rylo three times, pausing after each call, ending with “Negative contact K-9 Rylo. End of watch November 12, 2013. Station out.”