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Top stories of 2018: Riverhead police dog killed in action

Riverhead police dog Rocky was killed in action Sept. 2 after the vehicle K-9 officer John Morris was operating crashed during a police pursuit. The dog was 8 years old. 

Following his death, more than 40 K-9 officers and their dogs attended the funeral procession Sept. 10 at Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton to honor the German shepherd killed in the line of duty. 

The procession featured dozens of police cars and officers from departments across Long Island and beyond, including a contingent of NYPD officers.

“It’s basically Rocky’s day,” said Riverhead K-9 Officer John “Jack” Doscinski.

Mr. Doscinski remembered Rocky as a narcotics expert who assisted in countless police cases.

“He’s apprehended robbery suspects, burglary suspects,” he said. “He was a very active, seasoned police dog.”

Police Chief David Hegermiller said a $7,500 donation from two local residents allowed the department to quickly purchase a new dog. Ron Hariri and Colleen O’Brien of Aquebogue made the donation on the same day Rocky died.

Officials said that Island Federal Credit Union, which has a branch in Riverhead, also donated $7,500 to the town in memory of Rocky. Officials said the two donations will be used to pay for the new K-9 and all associated costs, such as maintenance.

“We did this out of respect for the memory of Rocky and respect for the officers of Riverhead’s police department,” said Mr. Hariri. “We respect the police for their service and for putting their lives on the line every day, like Rocky did.”

Mr. Morris, who had been paired with Rocky for seven years, then underwent 18 to 20 weeks of training with Odinn, a roughly 19-month-old German shepherd. 

Mr. Morris said the reason police dogs often come from Europe — Rocky was from Poland — is that they have clean blood lines because breeding practices are stricter in Europe.

Odinn’s ancestry line is filled with dogs who had worked with police, he said.

“A number of the behaviors I want him to do, he does naturally. He wants to do them,” Mr. Morris said. “He kind of almost instinctively knows some of them.”

Top photo caption: Officers lined up with their K-9s to pay tribute to Rocky. (Krysten Massa photo)