Puyallup officer, colleagues bid farewell to 4-legged partner
Puyallup police officer Gary Shilley once had to wrestle a belligerent man to the ground.
Without hesitation, his partner – who’d been sitting in the back of the pair’s patrol car – bounded out a window and into the fray.
“Chance was on him before I knew it,” Shilley said Wednesday, referring to the German shepherd he picked out, trained and worked alongside for five years. “It’s going to be so hard not having him behind me anymore.”
Chance, who was nearly 6, died unexpectedly last week while undergoing a routine veterinary procedure.
The Puyallup Police Department honored him Wednesday during an emotional memorial service. About two dozen dog handlers from throughout the Puget Sound attended in a show of support.
There were prayers and remarks from the police chief and chaplain, and some in the audience wiped away tears as a slideshow with photos of Shilley and Chance played.
There also was talk of the special bond between a dog handler and his or her four-legged partner.
That relationship is difficult to capture in words, Shilley said.
“You’re with him all the time,” he said. “He becomes integrated into your life and who you are, so much so that you don’t realize it until he’s gone.”
For Shilley, Chance played an especially important role.
The officer was shot in the face in 2006 during a traffic stop. His recovery was grueling, but it motivated him knowing he’d be working with a new police dog upon his return, he said. (Shilley’s previous canine partner had retired before the shooting).
Shilley traveled to Ohio, where he picked out Chance. The dog originally was called Bosco, but Shilley changed his name to something more meaningful.
“He definitely represented a second chance to me,” Shilley said.
Over his career, Chance was sent out more than 250 times to track suspects fleeing crimes. He made 51 captures. And he knew how to have fun off the clock.
To the shepherd, a game of fetch involved at least two balls – one to chase and one to hold in his mouth while he ran, said Shilley’s wife, Shelby. Chance lived with the Shilley family.
Photos of the shepherd were on display at the front of the church, along with his tracking harness and his formal blue police collar.
As the service wound down, the handlers in the pews lined up to offer Shilley handshakes and hugs.
“We all suffer this loss with Gary,” said Puyallup officer Doug Kitts, whose canine partner, Daro, retires this month. “People may question, why do this for a dog? It’s just a dog. I say, ‘You just don’t get it. You haven’t been where we’ve been.”
In a eulogy, Shelby Shilley described Chance’s love for his job, his passion for tennis balls and stuffed birds, and how much he meant to her family.
He was “brave and unflinching,” she said.
“In the words of the Apostle Matthew, I say to Chance, our beloved friend and partner, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”email@example.com
How to donate
The Puyallup Police Department hopes to buy a new tracking dog to replace Chance. Donations can be dropped off or mailed to the department at 311 W. Pioneer Ave., Puyallup, WA 98371.