Port Orchard Police Department officers and staff bade a sad farewell to a faithful, dedicated and uncomplaining fellow team member named Amber.
This police department veteran was on staff for 10 years. She helped bring to justice criminals who had unloaded thousands of dollars of drugs into the community.
Amber, you see, wasn’t your ordinary law enforcement officer. She was a four-legged, dedicated crime-buster.
The 12-year-old dog was a yellow labrador who ably served the department from Dec. 9, 2005 to Dec. 9, 2015.
Their canine partner, who began to slow down due to her advanced age, was finally retired from the force in December. Unfortunately, her retirement spent at Ernst’s home was short-lived. A terminal medical condition was diagnosed shortly after retirement.
When the inevitable decision was made to end Amber’s pain, the police force gathered one last time — just for her. Her police badge was fastened on her collar before the journey began, sending Amber’s tail wagging. With her fellow team members driving behind procession-style, Amber began her final ride to the vet’s office in the back of a police SUV.
With her grieving friends standing by in the vet office exam room, Amber drifted away. After she was euthanized, surrounded by many of those who loved her, officers carried out Amber’s remains in a small, white cardboard casket, adorned with a simple cloth badge in the shape of an American flag.
Her friends left the vet clinic only with memories of her hard work as a narcotics dog.
Over her 10-year service period, she used her sniffer to ferret out 3,000 grams of marijuana, 400 grams of methamphetamines, 40 grams of heroin and 32 grams of cocaine. The K9 officer also tracked down about $140,000 of drug money stashed away by criminals.
But it’s not surprising that Amber is best remembered for enthusiastically greeting staff on entering the department’s headquarters after spending hours on a tough assignment.
Amber’s reward for a job well-done? Commander Dale Schuster said the dog was more than happy to simply spend a few minutes playing with a bound-up towel tossed to her by her handler, Officer Randy Ernst.
“I was privileged and honored to be with Amber on her last ride,” wrote Jana Deck, the department’s crime prevention officer, to police department employees.
“She served the police department with everything she had. We all know over the years that Amber made a lot of cases and took a lot of bad guys off the street with her dedicated service.”
Amber was just about the perfect officer, her partners said. Even though Amber was feeling quite ill, Deck wrote, she still had the drive and the heart to work through to the end of her life.
“In her state of illness, she still greeted everyone with graciousness. Her pride of service still shined through her pain.”
Amber’s partners can attest to her skills and professionalism in the pursuit of duty.
“Really, everyone here loved Amber,” Schuster said. “Her tail nev
er stopped wagging.” Even more poignant for Schuster was the dog’s natural ability over the years to comfort officers returning from difficult assignments and tragic situations.
Now that Amber is gone, Schuster said he isn’t aware of immediate plans to replace her. But if and when that happens, there’s no doubt the new K9 officer will have pretty big paw prints to fill.
She lived a life with honor and spirit. Well done, Amber.