Officers, civilians and K9s alike piled into the Colchester Meeting House last Thursday to celebrate the life of Colchester Police Department’s K9 Tazor and welcome the department’s newest member, Ozzy, an 11-month-old Belgian Malinois.

  Tazor was diagnosed with a terminal illness this fall, but served until Friday, Jan. 11, three days before his death.

  “I’ve said for years that if he retires on a Friday and dies on a Monday, he’ll have retired doing the thing that he was truly meant to do,” Tazor’s handler, Cpl. David Dewey said. “I just didn’t think it would actually happen.”

  The past weeks have been “bittersweet” for Dewey. He’s run the gamut of emotions from tears to laughter as he grieves the loss of his partner but remembers the wonderful times they shared. The duo worked side-by-side since Tazor’s arrival at the department in 2007.

  Tazor was the first Belgian Malinois but third K9 to join the force. Dewey named him Tazor in jest, poking fun at a then-department policy that prohibited officers from brandishing electronic weapons, according to Chief Doug Allen.

But the protection Tazor offered his brothers and sisters in uniform soon rivaled any weapon. To have a dog on scene provided the officers an added level of security, Deputy Chief Jeffrey Barton said. “People usually don’t mess with a dog.”

  But more than a safety net, Tazor was a companion. He’d walk around the department in search of treats and affection from his colleagues: “Tazor ran the office when he was in,” Barton said. “[He] had his own personality.”

  Among his accomplishments on duty were an average of 100 calls per year and assistance in seizure operations totaling $22,000 in cash over his tenure.

  During the celebration of life held in Tazor’s honor last week, attendees ambulated the meeting house sharing tales of the K9 in words and writing on a commemorative message wall. A slideshow and large photos of Tazor surrounded the room, and Allen offered words on both the K9 officer and program.

  The next CPD K9, Ozzy, helped temper tears and grief. Dewey, who will work alongside the four-legged enforcer, introduced him to the crowd, announcing he’ll begin formal training at the end of February.

  Dewey has worked with Ozzy behind the scenes since September, familiarizing him with a multitude of settings, scents and sounds to ensure he’s ready for whatever scenarios his post might see him in.

“I had already passed up a couple good dogs, and I made the decision that I like really liked this dog,” he said.

  Though Dewey wasn’t yet approved to handle the next K9 at the time, he took a chance, thinking he could at least prepare the furry officer for duty with another handler, but “in the back of my mind I knew there was no way I was going to be able to give him up,” Dewey said.

  “Handler and K9, the bond that forms is pretty much what you would think of any dog owner and pet would have, but they really take is to the next level,” Allen said. “They have a symbiotic relationship; that dependence on each other is truly remarkable.”

  Although Ozzy is younger and smaller than Tazor, he shares many quirks and traits with his predecessor, according to Dewey, who said, “They’re so similar it’s almost creepy.”

Training the pup has been a welcome distraction and a jumpstart to a beautiful new partnership, but Dewey will never forget his time with Tazor.

“To have the honor of working with an animal so closely and for so long, there’s gotta be a downside to it and this is it,” he said.