The memorial service was the first time in the last decade that the Fayetteville Police Department honored dogs and horses that had served the department. During it, the department dedicated nine granite markers to seven K-9s and two equine officers that had died in recent years of illness or old age.
"We spend a lot of time with the dogs. We spend more time with the dogs than we do with our families," Sgt. Tracy Campbell said, choking back tears. "When we were asked to do this, I was very honored."
Campbell's K-9, a Belgian Malinois named Nero, died in September 2004.
"When something happens to them, it's just like something happens to our children," he said.
The granite markers were added to 18 others in a small fenced area outside the police training center. The site is dedicated to "faithful partners who served the citizens and police department of Fayetteville."
Officer George Blanco said he feels fortunate to partner with Mia, a K-9 officer. Mia sniffed out 5 kilograms of cocaine in April 2006, leading to the largest drug seizure in Fayetteville history, he said.
"I've given up a lot of positions, a lot of promotions, and that's my partner," Blanco said. "I'm not giving her up for anybody."
Officer Daymon Keaton said he considers his K-9, Nyra, more than a partner. She's a member of his family, he said.
“She comes, stays at home with me. The kids love her,” Keaton said.
Fayetteville police have used dogs and horses since 1985. The department currently has 13 K-9s and three horses on the force. One K-9 works each shift in each police district in the city to search for narcotics and missing people, and the horses help officers patrol parks and control crowds at special events.
"If one of these dogs finds one child or one lost person or an Alzheimer's patient, you know they've paid for themselves," Campbell said.