By Lynda Hollenbeck
Kudos to the Benton Police Department for showing the local community and the rest of the world that police officers have a heart.
Too much of the time we see the absolutely necessary stern fronts they have to present to the public. Police people try not to reveal the mushy, gushy stuff because their very jobs — often their very lives — depend on it.
But underneath the blue are the same feelings the rest of us have and are allowed to display openly, without apology.
This is all being said in response to the tender ending that was afforded to K-9 Rudy.
Rudy was a service dog for the police department for five years, retiring in 2008 because of a degenerative joint disease.
Chief Kirk Lane noted that service dogs often develop these types of problems earlier and more often than other dogs due to the extreme conditions and environments they work around.
After his retirement, Rudy was allowed to remain with his final handler, Jeff Parsons, and his family for the rest of his life, becoming "just a regular dog."
The Benton City Council approved awarding Rudy to Parsons, who, without question, had formed a deep bond with the dog that stood ready to defend him against all manner of evil.
And he demonstrated many times he was there to serve and protect others.
Rudy proved one thing at the close of his life. While he may have been living for several years as "just a regular dog," animals that have been trained to serve people never forget that training.
Jeff, who no longer is affiliated with the local police force, said Rudy's health had been diminishing rapidly, particularly in recent weeks. He said he was unable to walk at all at the end.
"He couldn't even stand," Jeff said. "That last night I sat with him all night on the porch and knew the time had come to let him go."
Jeff talked to Sgt. Brian Bigelow and the two decided that Rudy should get to take one more ride in a police vehicle, even if it was to be the last ride.
"When Rudy saw the police car drive up to the house, this dog that couldn't walk at all stood up and walked to the car," Parsons said. "He couldn't get in on his own, but when the door was opened, he laid his head down on the back seat."
And then Rudy was transported in style to the veterinary clinic, where doctors with gentle hands and kind hearts gave him a final gift: death with dignity.
Losing an animal is hard for anyone. I've said more than once that when you give your heart to an animal, you're setting yourself up for a future heartbreak. You just don't know the date.
I don't have to elaborate on this to Jeff Parsons or anyone else who worked with Rudy or who has loved any dog. Or cat or horse or rabbit or bird or any of many species that love their owners unconditionally.
All they want in return is basic care and to know that they are loved.
When I have had to do this thing that hurts so deeply with one of my animals — which feels like it literally is searing your soul — I try to focus on the joy that animal has given me.
At times like this there are those who say, "I won't ever have another one because it hurts too bad when you lose him."
That's true, but if all that went between had never happened, then you would have missed the joy. And what joy it is to be greeted at the door with the wag of a tail or a happy meow or purr because you, the animal's special person, walked in the door.
So remember this: Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.
(Somebody smarter than me said that first; I just don't know who it was.)
The Rudys of the world — and all the plain, ordinary dogs, cats, etc. — deserve it.
Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.