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K-9 'hero' dogs now have special burial site at Highland Cemetery

K-9 memorial in NKY
Posted at 9:57 PM, Nov 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-03 23:26:51-04

FT. MITCHELL, Ky. — Dogs who served police departments in Northern Kentucky now have a special site where they can rest after they've passed away.

The Highland Pet Cemetery was unveiled Wednesday night, near a memorial for police dogs commemorating all the work the pups have done.

"Most people don't realize what these dogs do in their career. They just think they're dogs," said Stacey Rodriguez, the wife of a retired K-9 handler.

But they're not just pets. They're companions and partners in fighting crime.

"Extremely handy for helping us find a lot of suspects ... locate missing children, things like that," said TJ Selby, with the Campbell County Sheriff's Office.

The memorial at Highland Cemetery highlights dogs who served alongside police officers, like Santo.

Santo's photo is etched on a stone monument. In the line of duty, he was choked and stabbed while working with the Kenton County Sheriff's Office.

Santo survived, but the job took a toll on him.

"He was retired already," said Rodriguez. "He passed away from twisted intestines, so he's been through a lot. He passed away like that. He was 9 years old. I saw how emotional my husband was, because he was his partner."

Santo's name is just one of many on the memorial, which serves to help owners cope emotionally with the loss of their dog. But there's also a financial component.

Once K9 dogs retire, their owners have to pay out of pocket to bury their pet.

"The design of this foundation was to provide burial markers and etching for those officers who lose their K-9 partner," said Heather Jansen, mayor of Villa Hills. "(The) foundation will cover that free of charge. We know how expensive it can be to take care of. The design of this was so the officers don't have to, in addition, worry about the expenses to bury their best friend or partner."

Jansen's parents left money for charity and the family made a donation toward making the memorial site happen.

"There was such a need for the K-9 heroes, having been involved with the cemetery without parents," said Jansen. "It was nice to be able to do something where the officers, handlers can recognize the service they did."

The space within the cemetery also gives officers who have lost a furry partner a quiet, personal space to visit and remember.