The borough bid a heartfelt farewell last week to K-9 police officer Rosco, who died in July after serving since 2005.
Rosco was partnered with Detective Michael Luciani, who had selected him as a 13-month-old puppy, trained with him and conducted more than 100 searches and countless community visits.
“Rosco was a symbol of our community,” said Stephen Duncan, an Eagle Scout with Troop 91.
For his Eagle Scout project, Duncan built a shelter for Rosco.
Mayor Sylvia Petillo said Rosco was the first bloodhound to serve in the borough’s K-9 unit. He was “an exceptional animal,” she said. “It sounds strange to refer to Rosco as an animal because over the years he became a part of the special brotherhood in our .”
More than 60 residents attended the ceremony, including representatives from the Sussex County Sheriff’s Office and Madison Police Department
Acting Madison Police Chief Jerry Mantone said his department got to know Rosco and Luciani on a National Night Out event. It was clear the way the dog responded around children and adults, and participated in the night’s events that Rosco was a special dog and police officer, he said.
Petillo said Luciani pestered three police chiefs with the idea of the borough’s own K-9 unit, and Chief John Swanson finally agreed. With a $250 donation by Councilwoman Estelle Klein through the Animal Haven, the move was put in motion.
A K-9 police officer and his handler/partner have a tight bond that grows through training and living with the police officer’s family.
“Rosco not only became Detective Luciani’s working partner, but Rosco became a loving member of the Luciani family," Petillo said. "Detective Luciani and Rosco were inseparable, always together, playing training, tracking, and then playing some more."
The mayor cited three significant searches in which Rosco took part.
In 2008, she said, a woman was lost in Stokes Forest for two days. Rosco tracked her scent for three miles, pointing out an area near a trash container that had previously been searched. With this new focus, searchers re-examined the area and found the woman.
In 2010, the dog helped police find the trail of a 13-year-old Nutley girl who had run away. Rosco tracked her over 13 miles to a point where the scent disappeared, Petillo said. Luciani determined the girl had entered a vehicle at that point. She was later found at a bus station and told the police she had been given a ride there.
The third search was for a 4-year-old boy who had wandered away from his house near dark. Rosco tracked the boy and the family dog to a nearby water tower and they were returned home safely.
Luciani, who watched the ceremony with damp eyes, said Rosco was not just a great police dog, but was terrific around children and a big hit when they went to day care centers and schools.
“He just knew,” Luciani said.