A four-legged police officer died unexpectedly on the 4th of July.
K-9 Officer Tango, a German Shepherd canine police officer with the Cheltenham Township Police Department, had to be put down when complications from tumors throughout his adrenal gland, chest and intestines significantly diminished his quality of life.
"The hardest part for me was walking out of that hospital with just a lead, collar and tags," says Officer Bob Dougherty, a full member of the CTPD K-9 Unit for 26 years and Tango’s partner.
Tango originally came to the United States from West Germany to be a family pet, but because he was so active, he was given to the caretaker of a pistol range for New Jersey police. Two Glassboro Police Department K-9 Unit officers noticed Tango and told Dougherty, who was looking for a new partner.
"He [Tango] showed everything that you need to see in a police dog," Dougherty says, including drive, focus, and loyalty.
Dougherty purchased Tango from the pistol range caretaker and brought Tango home for a few months. In January 2010, the duo began 24 weeks of training with the Philadelphia Police Department K-9 Training Unit to become a police dog team. They worked on Tango's foundational skills, like biting on command and obedience, and went through specialized training to search for and handle narcotics.
Then, they hit the streets.
"We would go on every call that any other officer team would go on," Dougherty says. "But we'd work specialty cases as well like searching for drugs or running down fleeing suspects.
They would also perform demonstrations for various programs, including summer camps held by the CTPD and University of Pennsylvania Working Dog Center.
"We would do a demo then let the children pet Tango" Dougherty says. "It was great to have the kids see him [Tango] in both modes: a mode to do work, and a mode to just be a dog."
When Tango was off-duty, he was a major part of Dougherty's family, which include his wife JoAnne, a 6-month-old Dutch Shepherd puppy they are fostering for the Working Dog Center and a 10-year-old German Shepherd. Their home essentially became the neighborhood dog park where families brought their dogs to socialize.
Whether at home or on the job, Tango loved to be beside his partner.
"If I left the house to go to the store or on vacation, Tango would go around the house and choose items I had worn, watches, clothes, anything he could find, and would make them into a pile he would lie on top of at the front door," Dougherty says. "When I would get home, he would be so happy. He made me feel special, like it was his was of returning the favor. That's what I'm going to miss the most I think."