Roy, canine courthouse favorite, dies Sworn deputy succumbs to cancer


Roy, the first canine deputy of the Anne Arundel County sheriff's office, was euthanized yesterday because he had cancer.

The 85-pound German shepherd was perhaps the best-loved sworn deputy in the county and -- with lifelong partner, Deputy Fred Charles Jr., by his side -- a fixture around the courthouse.

The dog was so well-liked that when a fire alarm emptied the Anne Arundel County Court House yesterday afternoon, the buzz outside was not about whether this was a false alarm or if everyone would be sent home early. It was about Roy.

Roy and Charles came to the sheriff's department in November 1995, after retiring from the Baltimore City police force.

Roy, who was 10 1/2 , was one of the few dogs in the state cross-trained to detect explosives and firearms as well as drugs, to track people and to protect, said Capt. Ed Niedzielski, courthouse security chief.

"He was probably the best dog in the state. That was reflected in his duties," said Niedzielski. "They were the best K-9 team in the state, in my opinion."

Roy and Charles were part of the team providing security for the October 1995 Baltimore visit of Pope John Paul II, and in recent years for actor Bruce Willis, Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken and Presidents Jimmy Carter, George Bush and Bill Clinton. They regularly assisted federal, state and local authorities in drug searches, explosives detection and tracking suspects.

The pair made a cameo appearance in "Homicide," the NBC police drama set in Baltimore.

In the past year, they went on more than 100 bomb-threat calls to Anne Arundel County schools. They also appeared at schools, senior centers and other community events throughout the region to demonstrate the dog's training.

Roy will be buried with honors at 1 p.m. today at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens Pet Cemetery in Timonium, according to a statement from Anne Arundel Sheriff George F. Johnson IV. Other police dog teams, as well as deputies and officers who know Charles and Roy from their years on the Baltimore City Police Department, are likely to attend.

Somber courthouse workers described the dog as a member of the Anne Arundel County Courthouse family.

Last year, when a gas leak closed the now-demolished old courthouse, court reporter Connie Tuers refused to come down from the building's third floor until the safety of the dog, in the next office suite, was tended to, recalled Vicky Leitch, administrative assistant to Judge Pamela L. North.

Amid lawyers arriving to file documents and litigants checking on their cases, Roy used to stand on his hind legs and plop his paws on the counter of the civil clerk of courts department. There, he would wait for a deputy clerk to reach under the counter for the box of Milk Bones (large size). So well-trained was the dog that he neither drooled nor touched the treats until Charles gave the OK.

"I loved Roy," said Hazel Bell, a deputy clerk of the court in the civil division. "We are very sad. We are going to miss him."

The dog had recently received a reprieve from forced retirement because of hip problems. But yesterday morning, Charles called the courthouse security office to say Roy was suddenly ill and they were on their way to Greater Annapolis Veterinary Hospital, Niedzielski said.

Diagnosed as incurably ill with cancerous tumors, Roy was euthanized about 1 p.m. Niedzielski said Charles was so overwrought that he asked another deputy, Beth Smith, to stay with the dog during the procedure.

Charles had begun training a black Labrador retriever to take over after Roy's expected retirement next year. But the dog, Bear, is only 3 months old and not fully housebroken, said Deputy Donald Scates.

The department's second canine deputy, Warf, also a black Labrador retriever, is not as highly trained as Roy, Scates and Niedzielski said.

Pub Date: 7/28/98

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