Tacoma police gather for fallen comrade — K-9 officer Barney

Barney was a police officer, a beloved pet, a hard worker, a friend.

The 11-year-old black Labrador mix was treated as such Thursday when K-9 officers from Pierce County escorted his remains from a funeral home in University Place to the Tacoma police headquarters at 3701 S. Pine St. for a memorial service.

Barney died March 25 after inhaling methamphetamine during a drug raid. He was the third Tacoma police dog to die in the line of duty.

“It’s not normal for a dog to be that good,” said his handler, Officer Henry Betts.

When Barney died, New Tacoma Cemeteries cremated him and placed his ashes in an urn. Betts took the remains home and will eventually sprinkle them in the hay field where the pup used to run and play fetch.

Betts said he hasn’t decided yet what to do with the hard rubber ball Barney was given as a reward every time he discovered narcotics.

Officer Tim Fredericks, who was in charge of selecting and training K-9s for the department when Barney was recruited, gave the remembrance at the memorial. He told the crowd that Barney had been a surprise and a blessing to Betts and the entire department.

“When I first saw Barney I thought to myself: He’s not bad looking but he’s no supermodel,” Fredericks said to the crowd. “But then I thought to myself: Neither is Henry.”

Betts received the Washington State Police Canine Association medal of honor on Barney’s behalf, given to K-9s who pass in the line of duty, and the Metro K-9 medal for Barney’s service.

After the service, other K-9 officers hugged Betts and said good-bye one last time to Barney, leaving toys and collars on a memorial table.

In the five years Barney worked as the department’s sole narcotics dog, he found 236 pounds of illegal narcotics and $1.8 million in cash, according to department statistics.

In addition to sniffing out drugs, Barney did community demonstrations for schools, retirement centers and the Special Olympics. He was so popular with children that many remembered his name and asked for him at events.

Betts wasn’t keen on switching dogs when the head of the K-9 unit found Barney at the Kent Humane Society in 2010.

But he quickly saw the dog’s potential. The pair bonded at work and home, where Betts’ wife and 2-year-old daughter also came to love Barney.

“How many people are fortunate enough to bring their dog to work every day and then go home with him?” Betts asked. “Who has that connection? It’s very rare. Barney just knew I was his guy.”