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Longtime Indiana police dog will be 'terribly missed'

Friday, April 5, 2013 - 4:31 pm

MUNCIE — "Torro will forever be remembered for his service — not only for Delaware County's protection, but also for the service that he gave the nation working for the United States military. Torro is with the angels now."

With these words read over the emergency dispatch airwaves from Delaware County Sheriff Michael Scroggins, Torro's time as a police K-9 with the sheriff's office officially came to an end Wednesday afternoon.

Torro, 7, a Belgium Malinois from Holland, died Wednesday after doctors discovered a large tumor growing behind one of his eyes. Instead of taking the chance of prolonging the dog's suffering for just a couple of more days of companionship, Deputy Dave Williams — Torro's partner since the summer of 2010, when the K-9 joined the sheriff's office — made the difficult decision to put his comrade to sleep, draped in a U.S. flag.

Torro was cremated and laid to rest after receiving a special police escort to his final resting place in Anderson later the same day.

Torro spent the first few years of his life in the United States military, where he served several tours overseas in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. According to Deputy Lenny Popp, a certified K-9 trainer with the Delaware County Sheriff's Office, military K-9s are trained to be very protective of their handlers.

Williams said Thursday he'll always remember Torro — his first-ever K-9 partner — for the way he was able to change from that once-protective companion into a sociable and playful dog with other officers, which is better suited for police work.

"After working with him and bonding with him, he pretty much did a night-and-day turnaround," Williams said. "He was a sociable dog and allowed people to pet him and everything. That was a huge thing for me, being able to bond with him like that and turn him around. He was the kind of dog I always wanted."

Popp said Torro was a reflection of his partner.

"If you know Dave, he's goofy, so he worked out perfectly because Torro was definitely goofy," Popp said. "A goofy dog just as much as the handler — so a great combination."

Torro — a bomb detection dog who typically worked afternoons with the sheriff's office — was perhaps best known around the office for his big red Kong ball. Williams said Torro would tear up simple tennis balls in mere minutes, so once the dog met his match with the virtually-indestructible Kong ball, he made sure to include the rest of the staff in his special game.

"These Kongs are pretty heavy, and he'd actually spit it at you, hit you with it, and want you to throw it," Popp recalled. "He was always running around with that ball, throwing it at everybody, wanting everybody to play with him and pet him."

But those games ended the minute Williams put the leash on Torro.

"He definitely knew when the leash went on he was all business and he was ready to work," Williams said. "With me, this being my first dog and the first time handling with him, he definitely kind of spoiled me because he did a lot of the work without me coaching him along."

Scroggins credited Williams — a father of three young children — for making a tough decision Wednesday after the doctor's grim diagnosis for his K-9 partner. The sheriff said many people don't quite understand how close a K-9 officer typically gets with their dog.

"(The dogs are) members of their family, but when they get ready to go to work, that K-9 goes to work on duty, also," Scroggins said. "They're with them eight-plus hours a day, and they're together in the car, and they're working together, they break together."

Scroggins said Williams stood by Torro's side until the very end Wednesday.

"It's a thing that really, really hit me, watching Dave right there with Torro, and he was down petting him and talking him, just like he would when they were working and getting him fired up to train or do a search," Scroggins recalled. "The partnership was there until Torro's last breath."

Police K-9s, Scroggins said, are an integral part of police departments worldwide, which is why Torro's death Wednesday was especially hard on everybody involved.

"It was dealt with with honor, care and love," Scroggins said. "He'll be terrible missed — he was a warrior."