This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
American flags and blue ribbons the markings of a police funeral lined Mustang Trail Way outside Herriman High School on Saturday morning. Inside a dimly lit auditorium, a couple hundred solemn friends and officers put their arms around each other's shoulders as they grieved for Unified police dog Dingo, who had been shot and killed July 6 in the pursuit of a parole fugitive.
"He was my fishing buddy, my confidant, my constant companion, my ever-loyal partner and my protector," Dingo's handler, Sgt. Chad Reyes said during the memorial for the 7-year-old Belgian Malinois, his voice breaking as he talked about their bond.
They first met five years ago when Reyes joined the Unified K-9 unit and the department shipped Dingo in from Mexico to be the officer's partner. Reyes picked Dingo up at the Salt Lake City International Airport, where the 2-year-old dog had arrived in a crate stuck together with chicken wire and duct tape, Officer Luis Lovato said. In the years that followed, the pair became the go-to team in the valley, Lovato said.
In that time, Reyes recalled during the service, he and Dingo built a routine. Dingo made himself comfortable under a chair in the corner of the bedroom while Reyes showered, he said. After the shower, Dingo laid by Reyes' feet while he got ready.
As Reyes prepared for work the afternoon before the shooting, Dingo stayed under the chair, with a look that said, "I'm comfy. Join me if you want," Reyes said.
So he did, cuddling with the dog under the chair for five minutes. And then the two went to work.
About 1 a.m. July 6, Unified police assisted the U.S. Marshals Service in the arrest of Torey Chase Massey, a 28-year-old parole fugitive wanted for theft.
Unified called on Dingo to apprehend Massey. Then Reyes heard gunshots and saw Dingo release the suspect, Capt. Del Craig said. Reyes and a medically trained U.S. marshal found a wounded Dingo and rushed him to a nearby animal hospital, where he died.
Charges have not yet been filed against Massey for Dingo's death.
Before the early morning shooting that ended Dingo's life, Reyes had been considering a promotion that would have meant Dingo's retirement. Outgoing Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder had approached Reyes to lead the K-9 unit, but Reyes declined, saying he wanted Dingo to stay on the force.
"I granted his request, begrudgingly," Winder said. "Part of me regrets that."
After Dingo's death, Winder did what he said was "necessary for the department" and made Reyes' promotion official.
At the memorial Saturday, he recognized Reyes as the force's newest lieutenant.
Afterward, mourners moved outside for the cordon, flag-folding and 21-gun salute.
In the bright sunlight, officers wore red, watery eyes as Winder present Reyes a folded-up flag. Reyes, who seemed to fight back tears, held the flag for a moment, then passed it to his children, Aspen and Talon. The two clutched the flag together and led the pall bearers all Unified K-9 handlers and their dog's coffin to the truck that drove the family to a cemetery in Cottonwood Heights.
K-9 units from more than a dozen police departments joined the procession to Dingo's final resting place.
Handlers from other departments sometimes fill in for Unified, Lohrke said, specifically when the K-9 unit goes on its annual retreat. The trip is meant to be a break from the stress of work and a chance to relax and build camaraderie around a campfire.
The timing of this year's retreat was especially important, Lohrke said, as Dingo was shot days before the trip.
A video played Saturday included scenes from previous trips with Dingo, including the dog on the boat. Other clips, of training and competitions, presented Dingo as a fierce and unrelenting K-9. One of the final photos showed Reyes sleeping on a recliner, arm draped over the side, his hand laying gently on top of his sleeping best friend.
"He always saw me through," Reyes said. "And in the early morning hours of July 6, he ensured once again that I'd come home to my children, although this time without him."