CPL. IAN ALEXANDER of the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Department is pictured with a young police dog, Rocko, at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro. Rocko retired in 2012 and died early on March 10 after enjoying 12 years with Alexander.

CPL. IAN ALEXANDER of the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Department is pictured with a young police dog, Rocko, at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro. Rocko retired in 2012 and died early on March 10 after enjoying 12 years with Alexander.

BATH

One of the most beloved officers of the Sagadahoc County Sheriff ’s Department left a hole in the heart of his partner and the community when he died early in the morning on Tuesday, March 10.

He enjoyed a successful eightyear run before retiring in 2012. Rocko was a German shepherd and half of the department’s first-ever K9 team.

His handler, Cpl. Ian Alexander, said he did the hardest thing he ever had to do when he rushed his partner to an emergency veterinary clinic in Lewiston and decided to have the 12-year-old dog put to sleep.

The dog was cremated and the family will keep the ashes with them because Alexander said he couldn’t stand the thought of throwing dirt over his dog.

He was working the night shift when his wife, Karen, called from their Richmond home at around 9:20 p.m. Monday, March 9, to say Rocko wasn’t acting right and was outside vomiting. He checked on the dog at 11 p.m., but by 1:30 a.m. the next day, Alexander just looked at Rocko and, “I knew.”

The dog was panting, his heart was racing and his stomach was bloated. Alexander knew he had to get him to the vet and woke his wife. They got their two sons up so they could say goodbye. It was the toughest part for Alexander.

Now that Rocko was retired, “That was their dog,” Alexander said of his boys. His eldest son, Cole, 11, got his own blanket off his bed for the dog. Wrapped in the American flag blanket, Alexander placed Rocko in the back of the cruiser.

Lewiston police were told Alexander was coming. His brother, Wayne, rode with him as he rushed Rocko to the Animal Emergency Clinic of Mid-Maine in Lewiston, hoping the dog would last the trip. Two Lewiston cops helped Alexander get Rocko into the clinic.

The vets could tell right away Rocko had a case of gastric torsion, which is when the stomach spins. Alexander declined further tests at that point.

“I knew it was time and it was going to be the best decision for him,” Alexander said. As the dog was prepped for administration of the solution that would bring an end to his suffering, “I was at his head the whole time.”

He talked to the dog he’d met at age six weeks, and told him he loved him. It had to be done, “but to go through it.”

He knows though that Rocko was happy, “no doubt, right up to the end.”

Alexander sat at the sheriff ’s department with a scrapbook capturing highlights of his career. Many clippings are stories of the team’s successful tracks and drug captures. There are photos of him with Rocko after graduating from canine training programs at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, receiving the county’s top cop award and running in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for the Special Olympics of Maine with Alexander.

“He wanted to please at all times,” Alexander said of Rocko. He got the dog from a breeder in LaGrange that he found through Uncle Henry’s, a classifieds publication. Alexander had gone to the sheriff at the time and said he wanted to be a K9 handler. There are more K9 teams around now, but initially, Alexander and Rocko were getting about 100 calls a year. Rocko ended his career with more than 1,000 calls for service.

Rocko “did very well, especially tracking,” Alexander said. “He found a lot of people. There were times we did a track, found one person and boom, we jumped on the same track to find a second person from a vehicle.”

One of the best finds was in Brunswick after a couple kids had been drinking and broke into a house.

After searching the first floor, “On this occasion Rocko ran upstairs,” Alexander recalls. “He couldn’t get through this one door,” so he held Rocko as police opened the door, and all they saw was the rear-end of a suspect hiding in the tiny crawl space.

Another time the duo tracked and found a suspect laying on the ground with his hands beneath him, ignoring commands to show his hands.

Alexander waited a matter of seconds, preparing to release the 85-pound Rocko, which convinced the man to rise and cooperate.

Rocko had his own police identification and badge. The morning he died, Alexander’s son, Brady, 8, wore Rocko’s badge around his neck to school and Cole wore the ID, and told their friends what had happened.

“He touched a lot of lives,” Alexander said. Children loved to pet him and remembered him, “and he loved kids.”

Alexander said, “I couldn’t have asked for a better dog.”

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