Officers honor fallen Dunbar police dog Alley
Under a bright sun and cloudless sky, Dunbar police and K-9 units from neighboring police departments gathered with citizens to honor and say goodbye to one of their own.
Lt. Alley died Aug. 19 while on duty with her partner, Lt. Scott Elliott. Upon her death, Alley, a Belgian Malinois-German shepherd mix, had served with the Dunbar Police Department for 10 years.
Elliott and Alley had a routine when he would stop to refuel his cruiser, Dunbar Chief Earl Whittington said.
He would get out and open her door so that she could get out and play while he pumped gas. When he finished, he would call for her, and she would return to the vehicle.
On Aug. 19, Elliott opened the door without looking and went about his routine. When he went to call her, he noticed he didn't see her anywhere, the chief said.
When he looked inside, he saw she had never gotten out. Alley had died on duty.
Whittington spoke fondly of the canine Wednesday at the city's police and fire memorial at City Hall. Her career as a police dog started off with a bang. On her first day on the job back in 2003, she found a small bag of heroin in a vehicle search.
In her biggest bust, she sniffed out 90 pounds of marijuana while searching a truck, something the city's police officers were proud of because it meant the drugs never made it onto the street.
She was called on in many occasions to search for drugs and people, but she also went to the city's schools - sometimes to search lockers for drugs and other times just to visit the students.
Whittington said he had a little bit of concern sending dogs to the schools, fearing a student would get bitten, but Alley put his mind at ease, immediately switching into "play mode" with the students.
"You could walk up to Alley and as long as you weren't a threat, she didn't take you as a threat," Whittington said. "She knew when there was a threat, and she knew when not to act on a threat."
He said she would come out of the car and be swarmed by small children. In that setting, she would lie down, lick everyone within reach and enjoy the attention.
But when the radio sounded and she was given the command, she went into "work mode," the chief said.
She was playful and enjoyed working, Whittington said of the dog. The chief said he and Elliott had talked about retiring the animal.
He left it up to Elliott, her handler, partner and "parent," to make the decision. Police dogs typically live with their handlers and become part of their families. Elliott told the chief that as long as his partner was playful, able and wanted to work, he would keep her at his side.
"She was just as frisky on her last day as she was on her first day," Whittington said. "I think that shows a lot strength in the dog itself and the dedication she had to work."
The chief said he has encountered many police canines, but not many were as dedicated as Alley. She was trained in drug location and officer protection.
She also was called upon to track missing people or suspects.
"She would pursue you until she caught you and then she would make sure you were escorted back to the police department to get full credit for what you'd done," Whittington said of Alley, earning a hearty bark from Kratos, Dunbar Sgt. Mike Lester's canine partner. "Absolutely, that's exactly what I think."
Whittington said he believed it was destiny for Alley to be Elliott's partner and that the bond grew between them.
Elliott stood stock still in full uniform, a black band over his badge, while the chief spoke. He grew emotional behind his reflective sunglasses at one point during the ceremony and gave a slow salute when the other officers saluted the wooden carving of his partner and best friend.
About a dozen K-9 officers and their handlers came from around the area to show support for Elliott and to remember Alley. More than two-dozen citizens came to the memorial as well. More than a few of them were left teary-eyed by the memorial.
Alley was cremated. A line of police cars wound through the city after the service as a show of respect.
Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4850.