When we finally got inside the Civic Center, the floor area was set up for law enforcement only, while us commoners were asked to sit in the stands. I’m guessing there were well over 200 officers and at least as many non-law enforcement people there to pay their respects.
Playing on a large screen on the stage was a montage of photos and videos of Jethro with his handler Officer Ryan Davis and the entire Davis family. The other dog you might see in some of these photos is Armin, Ryan’s partner before Jethro. In the background, you can hear them playing the song “All Gave Some; Some Gave All”.
Center stage, there was a beautiful memorial display featuring a huge dog bone. In the front row sat the Davis family, Ryan, Rachel, Joseph, Kayla, and retired K-9 Officer Armin.
Once everyone was assembled, Chief of Police Bruce Lawver welcomed everyone and introduced Chaplain George Lancaster. As part of his invocation, he stated, “Lord, you have relieved Jethro of his duty and moved him into sacred glory.” At this point, I started crying and did so for most of the rest of the service. Chaplain Lancaster also paraphrased the familiar Bible text, “Greater love has no one than to lay down his life for his friend.”
Canton Mayor Thomas Bernabei spoke next, saying, “Jethro’s legacy is to remind us that bravery and devotion can travel on four legs.”
Chief Lawver took the microphone again, noting that Officer Davis is known as the Brett Favre of the force because he has no ligaments left in his knees. He told a story of how Ryan was rough-housing with his daughter, Kayla, soon after Jethro came into their home. The first time he did it, Jethro put himself between Ryan and Kayla. The second time, he looked at Ryan and growled, raising his hackles. The third time, Jethro actually bit him. Funny how this dog who was supposed to protect his handler somehow knew who really needed protection at that time! You might remember that Jethro was originally purchased as a pet for Kayla – he probably knew who spoiled him the most!
Head K-9 Trainer Patrolman Eric Stanbro followed his chief at the podium. After performing a roll call, which (of course) ended with K-9 Jethro not answering when his name was called, Eric proceeded to thank all those in attendance. A former Stark County corrections officer who now lives in Dallas made the trip to Canton, as did K-9 officers from as far away as New York City. Employees from the Stark County Veterinary Emergency Clinic were in attendance, as were officers from all over Northeastern Ohio.
Stanbro stated that the K-9 Unit had been a part of the Canton PD for 31 years. He talked about how all the officers on the force have high expectations of the K-9s because of the life-saving role they have played over the years, protecting not only police officers, but also the citizens of Canton. “Yes, these dogs are brave, but they are brave because we ask them to do it.”
Officer Stanbro said that he and Officer Davis were both 20-year veterans of the Canton Police Department, having served together for 14 years on the SWAT team before transferring in 2008 to the K-9 unit. He stated that Ryan came by his work ethic honestly, sharing a story of Ryan’s grandfather who had cut off his finger in a farming accident, but finished about an hour’s worth of work before coming in from the field. “Ryan is the same way. He never complains. He will not be out-worked.”
Turning his attention to Jethro, Stanbro noted, “If you name a kid Jeeves, he’s going to grow up to be a butler. If you name a dog Jethro, he’s going to grow up to be a giant blockhead…Jethro weighed about 105 pounds, most of it head. His head weighed about 40 pounds. The first time he tried to jump a wall, he ran into it and knocked the wall down!”
When Jethro was still a puppy, Ryan used to bring him to training with his big brother Armin. They decided they’d try out Jethro’s skills to see if he would be a good fit for the K-9 program. Stanbro got out what he calls a “soft sleeve”, described as kind of a burlap sack with a little cotton lining, used to practice bite training for beginners. This first training session was the last time Stanbro used the soft sleeve for Jethro. He graduated to the regular bite coat from that moment on.
On what would have been Jethro’s 3rd birthday, Chief Lawver presented Officer Davis with the dog’s fallen officer medal and a commemorative plaque. A resolution from the Canton PD, proclaiming today as K-9 Jethro Day was read, and a folded American flag was presented to the Davis family with the thanks of a grateful community.
Ryan then came to the stage, picked up a box carrying Jethro’s ashes and carried them to a cruiser. He placed the ashes in the back seat and drove slowly from the room, followed by a parade of nearly 100 K-9 officers and their handlers. Pipers played Amazing Grace as they departed. I took just a short video of the car leaving, shown below.
The Honor Guard gave a final salute, and Chaplain Rabbi AJ Kushner presented the benediction.
It was a very moving service. I’m so glad I went, and I hope I’ve been able to represent how special it was with the pictures and my inadequate words.
Up next: A few pictures from outside, after the funeral.