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Officers pay tribute to fallen Steubenville K-9

A TRIBUTE — Memorial services were held Wednesday at Berkman Amphitheater in Steubenville for Bono, the Steubenville Police K9 officer that died unexpectedly Nov. 7. (Photo by Linda Harris)

STEUBENVILLE — Police officers, city officials and community residents gathered at Berkman Amphitheater Wednesday to pay tribute to Bono, the Steubenville Police K-9 officer that died unexpectedly Nov. 7.

Officers from throughout the region were on hand for the service, which included a bagpiper, taps and the traditional “End of Watch call.” K9 units from Louisville, Cadiz, Canton, Dover, Hartville, Jewett, Weirton, Wheeling and Wintersville and Stark County Sheriff’s Department, were among those in attendance, along with city firefighters, Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies and Ohio State Highway Patrol.

“Bono represented a new chapter in the police department,” the Rev. Jason Elliott of First Westminster Church told the crowd, “A new … strategy aimed at making the department stronger and at the same time safer. You know what they say — it sometimes is hard to teach an old dog new tricks, but this new dog taught each and every one of us so many valuable lessons … lessons of loyalty, courage and teamwork.”

Elliott told the group Bono’s “endless energy, hard work ethic and commitment to serve and protect our community is indicative of the relationship he shared with his handler, Sgt. Rob Cook.”

Ohio K-9 Association President and Head Trainer Christopher Heslop praised the bond between Bono and Cook, referencing the K9’s distinctive look — he was born with an immune deficiency that caused the hair around his eyes, jaws and chin to fall out — and his even more distinctive bark.

“When (Bono) was coming down the hall, he’d always bring it,” he said, saying the department “got an awesome dog through community donations, and you got a grant from the Ben Roethlesberger Foundation to purchase a vehicle. Do you know how many times I tried for that grant and I never, ever got it?”

The funding also flowed through the Steubenville Hilltop Community Development Corp. of Pleasant Heights and LaBelle.

Mayor Jerry Barilla reminded the crowd Bono was as much a protector as a crime fighter, pointing out, “There’s no greater gift than to (be willing to) lay down one’s life for another,” while Elliot called the K-9 a “great ambassador for our community, and especially for the children of our community.”

“We appreciate Bono’s service, we appreciate his unconditional love and support,” he continued. “As tough as he was, Bono was also a great ambassador for our community, and especially for the children of our community. Kids loved when Bono came to visit their school or community group. I’ll never forget him being at our church during an after-school program — the kids’ eyes lit up when they saw Bono. Sgt. Cook asked one of (them) to hide one of Bono’s chew toys in the basement of the church. The kids did their best to trick Bono but Bono always won the game. I distinctly remember him slipping and sliding on the tile floor, so determined to retrieve the toy and bring it back to Rob. The kids talked about Bono and Sgt. Cook’s visit for weeks.”

Elliott also pointed out how much Bono liked what he did.

“(He) loved to work,” he added. “It was actually hard for him to relax, he had so much energy. Bono did it all, he found drugs, he helped get guns off the street, he found bad guys who had done other people harm, he found a lost child, and he saved you from violent encounters on a few occasions. He did it all and asked for nothing in return.”

(Harris can be contacted at lharris@heraldstaronline.com)

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