Nero was acquired by my department (Hammonton Police) in early 2004 with funding from the Department of Homeland Security, with the stipulation that he will be trained in explosive detection. Nero was first handled by another officer from my department, but their work was only marginal at best (just as all people don't get along, neither do all animals & people, lol!). I then acquired Nero in early 2005 and was promptly sent to the New Jersey State Police Canine Academy, where we graduated as part of scent class #19.
Upon graduation, we became members of New Jersey's Detect & Render Safe Task Force, Southern Region (a task force comprised of explosive detection canines and bomb squads). Nero and I have had the pleasure to "work" several schools, universities, municipal buildings & court houses, commercial buildings, trains & train platforms, airplanes at Newark International and Atlantic City International, a Coast Guard cutter on the Delaware Bay, sailing vessels, the ferries to New York City, and a security detail for a NJ Governor, just to name a few. As a member of the task force, we would train, or "in-service" once a month to keep the animals sharp; unlike a narcotics detection animal, there is no margin of error or failure with an explosive detection animal.
Toward the summer of 2011 I observed a decline in Nero's desire to "hunt", or search for the odor; frankly he was getting tired, so the decision was made to retire him. I made the decision to retain him (yes, it was an option), and kept him relaxed and comfortable as a reward for his years of work and dedication. Early this year I observed a noticeable change with Nero's mental health - at times he'd "forget" who I was - this would last for a few seconds to a few minutes at a time. The decision was difficult, but it had to be made... he had to be put down (so that he wouldn't suffer, and for the safety of others).
I brought him to our vet and explained the situation. I then stayed with my partner, soothing him, until he gently put his head down, taking his last breath. Nero was then cremated and placed into a beautiful box, with his name engraved on it. I, personally, am not one to display ashes in my home, I'd like to put him to rest under a nice shade tree. I'm currently constructing a box for his remains, our patrol and scent leads, his choker collar, and his favorite Kong. Nero was always a bit squirrely to say the least, but was always on the level with me, and I loved him for that. My wife had never even felt his fur, my son only saw him through the kennel fence, and the last person he bit was my lieutenant! Nero was bred for a life of service, and that's what he did, never letting me down - hence the Latin inscription of the bottom of his stone, which translates to "while we live, we serve." He was a tough ol' boy, and I'd find it difficult to replace him.
Click the photos below for a larger view.