Bagpipers, an honor guard and hundreds of officers and guests paid tribute Sunday to fallen police dogs with a new memorial wall — and a special remembrance of a dog named Drake.
Trained as a drug-sniffing dog for the Florida Highway Patrol, Drake was was shot four times last year while defending his owner’s suburban West Palm Beach home from intruders.
Drake, who was 5 years old, survived the shooting but died within a few days, on Nov. 23. Three teenagers were later arrested in connection with the case, with charges including armed burglary and felony cruelty to an animal.
Owner Bobby Boody, an FHP trooper who adopted Drake after his working days ended, found the bleeding animal after returning from a shift. Despite being shot in the head, front leg and hind quarters, the dog tried to stand when Boody returned. The trooper rushed the animal to a veterinary hospital. At the time, Boody called Drake “a tough dog — that’s for sure.”
On Sunday, Boody said, “It’s great to see the public and the law enforcement community recognize what these dogs do.”
More than 130 dogs are honored on the memorial wall, including more than 20 who died in the line of duty in area counties. It was made possible by donations raised by Ken Simmons, the veterinarian who tried to save Drake.
The memorial, which features a statue of Drake, stands on the grounds of the Simmons Veterinary Hospital in Lake Worth. It seeks to recognize police dogs for “their loyalty, dedication, spirit, courage and strength to their law enforcement partners, their agencies and communities they served.”
Simmons said he is working with state legislators on a bill that would provide state money to supplement private donations for the care of police dogs after they retire by classifying them as “officers” instead of equipment. Those costs are typically left to their handlers, though in many cases the dogs have injuries or illnesses related to their working lives, he said. The dogs are entitled to such care in the light of their service, Simmons believes.
Officers, deputies and dogs attended from a host of agencies. Among them: the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, Martin County Sheriff’s Office, Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Highway Patrol, Boynton Beach Police Department, Jupiter Police Department, Palm Beach Gardens Police Department, West Palm Beach Police Department, Boca Raton Police Department and the Stuart Police Department.
At least 109 dogs have died in the line of duty in Florida, said Barbara Snow, executive director of the U.S. War Dogs Association’s southern chapter.
Dogs recognized by name Sunday included Smokey, shot in the line of dutry in Boynton Beach in 1981, and Abbey, a Florida Highway Patrol dog who helped authorities seize $47 million in illegal drugs. She died in 1992 after being poisoned.