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DUBUQUE, Iowa -- Dubuque Sheriff Deputy Joe Kennedy lost his partner and a member of his family Sunday. Roy, a Belgian Malinois, was killed in the line of duty after he was struck by a vehicle on U.S. 20 near Dubuque. The dog had been on the force less than a year.
"Not only was he a good family dog, but he had an incredible nose on him. He could smell out anything," Kennedy said. "He was a good tracker. He was this big and beautiful, muscular dog." Dubuque County Sheriff Ken Runde said Roy was assisting a state trooper near the truck stop on U.S. 20 around 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Roy sniffed around the vehicle and found a trace of drugs. Then, as he's trained to do, Roy sat down and expected a reward: his ball. But the ball bounced into the highway and Roy followed into traffic. "When he bounced his ball for him, the thing shot off across the road. The dog was excited about getting the ball," Runde said. "It wasn't anybody's fault." Kennedy said it was hard to watch, but Roy didn't suffer. Deputy Todd George received a call from Kennedy right after it happened. George, who handles the department's only other K-9 unit dog, Tommy, tried to offer some comfort for the grieving officer. "I can't imagine what Joe's going through," George said. "(Tommy) sleeps at the end of my bed. For 20 hours a day, this dog is right here beside me. You grow really attached." Kennedy said Roy was a remarkable dog: nimble and fierce on the job, but gentle and affectionate with his three children. "I totally trusted him around my kids," he said. "He would chase my boys around, run up behind them and bump them with his nose. They thought that was just hilarious." Kennedy said the loss will be especially hard on his daughter, who just turned 6 Sunday. But he said he's already decided to welcome another K-9 partner to his family. "It'll be pretty hard to replace (Roy)," he said. Police dogs have the odds stacked against them. They're often the first ones sent into dangerous situations like building searches. The indispensable ability for the K-9 to detect drugs and explosives and to search out fleeing criminals puts them at a higher risk than people. While 1 in 200 police officers will be seriously wounded during their careers, nearly a quarter of police dogs face serious injury, George said. Runde said there will be no official ceremony for Roy, but he stressed how important he was to the department. "He was doing his job," he said. "He was a huge asset to us. It's a shame we had to lose him."