Geneseo police officers are mourning the loss of their K-9 colleague. Bobby, the department's police dog, died on Feb. 22.
Bobby was approximately 6 years old and his death was unexpected. German Shepherd Bobby was taken to the vet after vomiting blood. An exam revealed the dog had a twisted intestine.
"Shortly after 3 p.m., he was rushed to the animal hospital in Bettendorf, Iowa," said Geneseo police chief Tom Piotrowski. At 8 p.m., the decision was made to euthanize Bobby.
Kinked or twisted intestines, known commonly as "twisted gut" is a condition that can sometimes affect larger breeds of dogs, including German Shepherds, and can occur after physical exertion.
"He was a loyal companion who showed dedication beyond any words," said Piotrowski. "It was very sudden. Bobby had undergone routine good health check-ups and had even been on patrol that morning."
On Feb. 23, a procession, including representatives from the Geneseo Police Dept., Geneseo Fire Dept., Geneseo Ambulance Service, Kewanee Police Dept. and Illinois State Police escorted Bobby's body from the Bettendorf Animal Hospital back to Geneseo.
The procession passed by Richmond Hill Park where Bobby often trained as well as by the home he shared with his K-9 handler Sgt. Jamison Weisser before arriving at Vandemore Funeral Home.
The procession passed under an American flag, suspended, from a Geneseo Fire Dept. ladder truck as it entered the funeral home property.
Police officers saluted as Bobby's body was transferred from the patrol vehicle he shared with Weisser to the care of the pet cremation staff at Vandemore Funeral Home.
A memorial service for Bobby will be held at a later date. The K-9 also will be honored with a special mayoral proclamation at the Feb. 26 meeting of the Geneseo City Council.
Bobby joined the Geneseo Police Department on Oct. 15, 2007. He was brought to the United States from Hungary and was introduced to Weisser at training sessions in Michigan.
The dog was trained to find narcotics, help capture suspects and do article searches.
"He was trained to put himself in harm's way," said Piotrowski. "Bobby would do anything for any of us in uniform."
"Working with Bobby is a whole other aspect of police work," said Weisser, in a 2009 interview with the Geneseo Republic. "He's a partner to me, and we're together almost 24/7.
"When we work, we're together, and when we're at home, we're together. It's like working with a partner who doesn't speak the same language," Weisser said.
In addition to Bobby's abilities to assist with police work, the K-9 also served as a public relations tool. He and Weisser would give demonstrations and presentations to area organizations and at local elementary schools.
Page 2 of 2 - "We're able to go into schools and talk to kids. The kids love him, which helps us bridge a gap between the police and the Geneseo community," said Weisser in 2009.
"Bobby was a great ambassador for our city," said Geneseo mayor Linda Van Der Leest. "This is a sad day for Geneseo."
"He was very popular with the school children," said Piotrowski.
Students, and others in the community, would give tennis balls to Bobby.
"Everything we do is a game to Bobby," said Weisser in 2009. The dog's ultimate goal is to receive a tennis ball as his reward following an activity.
"The tennis ball is his life," said Weisser. "He will skip over food to go for the tennis ball."
Weisser's police vehicle could often be seen in Geneseo with tennis balls tucked under the SUV's light bar. The tennis balls would be placed there in an attempt to dry them out following Bobby's training sessions.
Bobby was trained to locate marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin and any derivative of those drugs, including crack and ecstasy.
"When he knows there are drugs, his behavior changes," said Weisser in 2009. "His breathing gets deeper and his tail wag becomes more deliberate." When Bobby would locate drugs, he would sit or lay down to alert Weisser to his find.
"There was a wonderful level of trust Bobby and Jamison (Weisser) had together," said Van Der Leest. "They were partners 24-hours a day."
Weisser addressed the small crowd gathered Feb. 23 at Vandemore Funeral Home saying, "This has been very difficult, but Bobby would have loved it. He loved everything."
As a K-9 with the Geneseo Police Department, Bobby was considered an officer. In his memory, flags at the Geneseo Police Station and Geneseo Fire Station will be flown at half-mast.