The town of Hope Mills recently lost a trailblazing member of the police force who was loved by both her fellow police officers and members of the community she interacted with.
Boo, the town’s first full-time police dog, passed away at the age of 18. She became the town’s first police dog in 2005 and served 10 years before going into semi-retirement when her health prevented her from doing all the things a police dog is asked to do.
She continued to serve in a mostly ceremonial role, making public appearances for tours of the police department and other community events, until she passed away.
Hope Mills Police Chief Joel Acciardo said Boo was a special dog with a great disposition.
“You could bring Boo in for a kindergarten class tour and she would let the children run all over her, pet her, jump on her back, and she would just lay there and love it,’’ he said. “You could put her in a field situation where she was doing a track and she would be the most fierce, protective animal you ever saw in your life.’’
Boo worked most closely with her handler, Hope Mills Police Sgt. Lee Sumners. Acciardo said Sumners was unable to be interviewed about his work with Boo because he was still trying to deal with her passing.
“Boo was a trailblazer,’’ Acciardo said. “When you’re going into new territory, everything is a milestone. That made her very special. There is a bond between that handler and the animal. They become a team.’’
Acciardo said Sumners was responsible for Boo’s medical care, hygiene and training, everything associated with her needs and well-being.
When she wasn’t living with Sumner, she stayed in a police department truck, but it’s air conditioned and always running, Acciardo said. “They are never in a non-climate controlled environment when they’re not actually working,’’ he said.
When the police department’s new public safety facility is completed, it will include a kennel that will be the workplace home for all future Hope Mills Police Department dogs.
Boo was replaced in 2014 when the department added a new dog, Ringo, to the team. Like Boo, Ringo comes from a kennel in the Netherlands that specializes in breeding police service dogs, according to Hope Mills Deputy Chief Dave Servie.
Ringo already made a name for himself with Hope Mills Police in 2016 when he helped officers locate the weapon used to murder Andrew Jacob Derenzy.
Boo and Ringo are both what are known in law enforcement circles as a patrol certified dog.
Servie said they are typically called on to track, detect narcotics or specific articles like a gun or wallet, or protect their handler. Both Boo and Ringo reported for work daily with the handler and were used for whatever need arose.
While Ringo has adapted well to his new role with Hope Mills Police, Acciardo said there’s no question Boo will be missed by everyone.
“Boo just absolutely loved people,’’ he said. “You couldn’t ask for a better ambassador, when you’re having a class of fourth graders come through, to represent the department’s canine team.’’
PHOTO: Boo, left, with her handler, Hope Mills Police Sgt. Lee Sumners, right.