Bath’s police dog Sampson died Tuesday at the age of 11. Courtesy of Bath Police Department

In April 2019, an intoxicated driver who was speeding crashed his vehicle on High Street in Bath, hitting two utility poles and a vehicle. He and another male passenger fled, leaving an injured woman behind in the backseat, according to police.

Deputy Police Chief Michelle Small, a sergeant at the time, and her police dog Sampson tried to track down the men. She said one of them who was hiding beside the road suddenly jumped up and threw a rock at her head and pushed her to the ground. She unleashed Sampson, who subdued the man and prevented the situation from escalating.

Sampson enjoys a treat from Dunkin’ Donuts. Courtesy of Bath Police Department

It was one of the countless times Sampson protected Bath police officers during his 10-year career as Small’s K-9.

Sampson’s service ended Tuesday when Small made the difficult decision to have her beloved dog put down, as cancer had spread throughout his body. The dog was 11.

“He was tired,” Small said. “There was really nothing more they could do.”

In addition to catching criminals, finding missing people and sniffing out drugs, Sampson was known throughout the Bath area and beyond at community events, whether it was Topsham’s National Night Out, Brunswick’s Bike Rodeo, meeting local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, or visiting local senior centers.


“Everyone loved Sam,” Small said. “He was great with people. … Kids could hang all over him.”

Small, who has been a K-9 officer for more than 20 years, got Sampson, a German shepherd, from the Netherlands in 2013 when he was a puppy.

“He was with me 24/7, pretty much,” Small said. “For the last 10 years, we were inseparable.”

Some police dogs have trouble adjusting to being a normal dog when they’re not working; Sampson did not, according to Small.

“He had an on-off switch,” Small said. “He was this lovable teddy bear of a dog, but when it was time to go to work, he was a different animal.”

Bath Deputy Police Chief Michelle Small and her K-9, Sampson. Courtesy of Bath Police Department

Sampson has helped find children with autism and older adults with dementia, Small said. In 2021, he tracked an armed domestic violence suspect to a house a mile away based on the man’s scent from his vehicle that he parked in downtown Bath. Last year, Sampson tracked down a man accused of vandalizing the Chocolate Church Arts Center.


“The list goes on and on,” Small said.

Small said she was inundated with phone calls, texts, emails and social media messages from people devastated over the loss of Sampson.

“It’s amazing, the community outreach and the love for this animal,” she said.

During his off time, Sampson loved playing ball, chasing butterflies and puppy cups from Starbucks, Small said. He was best friends with Small’s other German shepherd.

“He got to be a dog at home,” she said.

On Tuesday, first responders from Bath, Brunswick, Topsham, Lisbon, South Portland and the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office lined up for a final procession as Small brought him to Bath-Brunswick Veterinary Associates for the last time.

“He was very loyal to me and the community and all the officers here,” Small said. “I was lucky.”

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