by KENNETH ANTON
Hernando Sun Reporter
On Tuesday April 30, 2019, I was honored with the opportunity to attend a memorial service for a fallen Hernando County Sheriff’s Office K-9 officer: Officer Valor.
I entered the Hernando County Emergency Management building approximately twenty minutes before the ceremony. The family and officers close to Valor were already seated and reminiscing, a delicate air of mixed emotions (joy, sadness, trepidation) enveloped the mourners as they prepared for the ceremony.
As three o’clock drew closer, the room began to fill with people, Sheriff’s Deputies, K-9 handlers, uniformed officers and civilians all there to collectively remember and honor the life and career of this dedicated friend, family member and officer. The memorial was an opportunity not to mourn, but to fondly remember Valor and speak about the impressions he left on the lives of everyone he came into contact with.
Sheriff Al Nienhuis opened the ceremony by speaking about the relationships shared and bonds formed between not only human Law Enforcement Officers, but also between those officers and their K-9 Partners.
“It is easy to call the people who work here employees but they become more than employees…They become family. The same can be said for Canines,” said Nienhuis.
He went on to say,
“It’s like the best pet you ever had combined with the best partner you ever had.”
Sheriff Nienhuis, having been in Law Enforcement since 1989, was able to eloquently express what it means to lose a partner, even when that partner executes his duties on four legs instead of two.
Valor’s partner, Deputy Jeff Andrews, took the podium next and told the story of how he was selected to join the K-9 unit. A touching remembrance peppered with humor, pauses to regain composure, and a small hint of sorrow. Deputy Andrews recalled the story of how he chose the name of his soon to be partner, drawing inspiration for the name from a co-worker who had recently lost a battle with cancer.
Andrews reflected, “I haven’t cried in over a month, I guess now would be a good time.”
The partners experienced a rocky beginning during which Andrews had doubts about whether the partnership would take. While remembering their initial training, Andrews jokingly mentioned, “I’m pretty sure the dog hated me.”
Deputy Andrews spoke of times when he had to remind himself not to become too attached to the dogs they worked with, “They are a tool and we have to put them in harm’s way a lot of the time so you don’t want to become too attached to these dogs.” He was sure there was no way he would become attached to Valor. As the years progressed, Valor and Andrews grew a bond normally experienced between partners in high stress occupations. They depended on each other and Andrews began to see Valor as family.
Valor joined the force on Dec. 8, 2013 and his watch ended on March 15 of this year. Valor fell ill with Lymphoma and had to be put down as a result of the cancer. Deputy Andrews was overwhelmed by the amount of support he received during this trying time. He has been receiving cards and condolences from all across the country.
During his six years of service Valor was responsible for:
78 total apprehensions – including missing persons
11 apprehensions with a bite
Over 400 patrol deployments
Over 200 Narcotics deployments resulting in the location of 3,200 grams of marijuana, 392 grams of methamphetamine, 66 grams of cocaine 1.1 grams of ecstasy and numerous items of drug paraphernalia