For more than five years, when Mike Kelly came to work at the Manteca Police Department he rode in with his partner.
Bella, a Dutch shepherd that had previously worked for the Stockton Police Department, was paired up with Kelly from 2015 until her retirement in 2020 – at the age of 12.
While she spent the last few years enjoying her much-earned leisure time and developed an especially strong bond with Kelly’s granddaughter, Bella entered into rest on Tuesday at the age of 14.
“It is definitely a really hard day,” said Kelly, whose time as a K9 officer overlapped with his time as the officer best known for working closely with the homeless and helping to facilitate their transition off the streets. “She was 14 years old – her hips just gave out on her.”
Bella was a K9 patrol dog in Stockton before she came to the Manteca Police Department, where she was trained in narcotics.
Until her retirement in 2020, Bella would ride with Kelly as he made the rounds to each of Manteca’s homeless encampments and public camping spaces where he had developed a rapport with the unsheltered in the community – often serving as their alarm clock in places like Library Park when the allowed camping window would end.
Kelly said that she will picked up from the veterinarian’s office on Monday where she will be transported to be cremated, and will be moved in a casket that will draped with an American flag – a tribute to her years working with law enforcement throughout San Joaquin County.
While Kelly loved his time as a police officer working with Bella, he said that the thing that he’ll remember most – the memory brought laughter on a day that was lacking it for him – was when he made the investment to have carpet laid in his home only for Bella to remove it a week later.
“She was a great dog around my grandkids,” Kelly said. “I lost it when my granddaughter started balling.”
Working police dogs – and other animals that assist in the duties of law enforcement – are considered officers and receive specialized state and federal protection as a result. While the customs vary depending on jurisdiction, some police dogs are formally sworn in just like any other officer.
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