ROMULUS — When Seneca County Sheriff’s Office K-9 “Izak” died last summer, every officer in the department took the news hard.
Sheriff Tim Luce was one of them.
“It was a big loss, losing Izak,” Luce said. “At the same time, I really thought we should do something to honor the K-9s who have served the sheriff’s office over the years.”
On Thursday, that thought became a reality when a new K-9 memorial was dedicated near the entrance of the law enforcement center. It has the names of the dogs who have served the sheriff’s department including Izak, who died of cancer at the age of 8 last August while he was still on duty.
During a brief ceremony Thursday morning, Luce said the sheriff’s office K-9 unit started around 1985, with Deputy Barry VanNostrand as the first handler. The second was Deputy Joe Alongi, who now owns Rocky Mountain Granite & Marble in Webster.
“Joey and I both started in 1984 in the sheriff’s office. He went on to Irondequoit and I went to the Waterloo PD,” Luce said. “After Izak died, we talked here at our department and I looked at some K-9 monuments online and found one I really liked that the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office has. Joey said he would give me some prices.”
As it turns out, Alongi donated the monument to the sheriff’s office and included a statue of a dog. Luce said the value is approximately $20,000.
“I want to thank him very much for this donation. He is on a motorcycle trip now and couldn’t be here, unfortunately,” Luce added. “This is unbelievable. He didn’t want anyone to know he donated this ... although it’s a pretty awesome thing to do.”
Luce said the department’s first K-9s in the 1980s were paid for by fundraisers put together by local American Legion and VFW posts. Izak’s replacement, Ben, cost more than $13,000 from a company in Pennsylvania that raises and trains police dogs.
Luce added that Deputy Frank Eldredge, a former K-9 handler with the sheriff’s office, was also instrumental in the program over the years and getting the monument. The department’s two current handlers are Sgt. Mike Rhinehart (K-9 Aken) and Sgt. John Fowler (K-9 Ben), who was Izak’s handler.
The ceremony also included a blessing by the Rev. Paul Bonacci, a Waterloo native and classmate of Luce who is with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester.
“We think this is a great tribute to all the handlers and their dogs over the years. Izak was always a big hit at the D.A.R.E. fun days in Seneca Falls,” Luce said. “The biggest thing we miss with Izak is he was so good with the kids. We didn’t have any fears about letting him just run around at Vince’s Park and playing with the kids. We are hoping Ben will do the same thing one day.”