We may not realize it most of the time, but we depend on dogs for a lot of things. We rely on them for our safety, for emotional support, for companionship, and more. These four-legged creatures are the most loyal friends we could ever have, and I’m sure we’ve all wished they had longer lives.
This canine companion named Hondo is one of Utah’s best police dogs. Sadly, he perished in the line of duty while helping officers capture a fugitive in Salt Lake City on February 13. The K-9 suffered from a fatal injury in the sternum and was brought to a nearby veterinary hospital after the hit. Unfortunately, there was nothing more that the doctors could do. Hondo passed away that day.
The seven-year-old Belgian Malinois was trained in Europe before he started his police dog career in 2015. Hondo and his handler, Sgt. Ben Ricks, were one of the leading K-9 Teams in the state, according to police.
Back in 2018, the dog even placed first in international trials. He has also assisted with over 100 felony arrests and took hundreds of pounds of narcotics off the streets throughout his career. Hondo was an excellent police dog, and the Herriman Police Department’s grief couldn’t be put into words when they lost him.
To honor the dog’s sacrifice, the department commissioned Rawtin Garage, a Utah-based paint shop, to design a customized casket for Hondo. The officers already had a relationship with its owners since they availed of the shop’s services before.
John Ward, who runs the automotive body shop with his friend Keith Eccles, spoke to CNN about the police’s urgent request.
“They asked if we could get something together since we have done work on their motorcycles before,” he said.
Their team specializes in custom paintings and artwork on cars, motorcycles, trucks, so this is their first time designing a casket. Knowing that this was a special project, Rawtin Garage gave their all in designing it. They usually give a two-month waiting period to their customers, but for this specific project, they worked overtime (even overnight) to meet the deadline.
“We had a lot of pressure. I think the call came in Wednesday night. And they said [they were] bringing in a casket tomorrow morning. It’s hard work, but there’s an incredible sense of satisfaction,” John told KSL-TV.
Having to work on something urgent meant that their other projects had to be put on hold for a day or two. But for the team, the sacrifice was all worth it.
24 hours later, they revealed the special casket. It included a gorgeously hand-painted portrait of Hondo wearing his police harness. Keith sketched the image by hand while looking at a photo of the police dog. It was a huge focus of the project as they wanted to illustrate Hondo’s profile as accurately as possible.
“What an honor it was to paint a hero’s casket,” the garage posted on Facebook, along with a few photos of the custom-made casket.
“In a weird way, it was kind of a spiritual experience. You feel like, by the time you’re done, you really got to know Hondo,” Keith said.
John and Keith also had a soft spot for dogs, especially for a hero dog like Hondo, so they did all this work for free. They said it was just part of being in the community.
“Hondo was a special dog. A great dog. And we all love dogs,” John said.
While addressing reporters at a press conference February 14, HPD Police Chief Troy Carr couldn’t help but get emotional while speaking of the fallen hero.
“PSD Hondo was a true warrior,” he said. “His actions ensured that his loving friend and partner Ben [Ricks] would able to return home to his wife, children, and HPD family. We mourn the loss of our member of our family but we remember the sacrifice.”
They say all dogs go to heaven and for sure, Hondo is already up there and being the best boy, as usual.
Rest in peace, Hondo. Share this story to honor our brave police dogs.
Meet Hondo, one of our two K9’s on duty in Herriman. 👮🐕 pic.twitter.com/0HiZDPxgLM
— Herriman PD (@HerrimanPolice) October 15, 2018