Officer’s best friend

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published June 27, 2017

SOUTHFIELD — A handful of German shepherds let out an honorary howl June 17 in remembrance of Southfield Police Department K-9 Axe.
Axe, who died June 1, was honored in a full police burial at the Michigan War Dog Memorial in South Lyon.

Officer Michael Raby, of the Southfield Police Department, was Axe’s partner. The two were paired up in 2007, and they worked together until Axe’s retirement in 2013.

“He had come to us from another department where another handler was working with him, but it wasn’t a good match, so he was assigned to me,” Raby said. “We had a pretty incredible bond. Axe was a very high-drive Dutch shepherd, and you just had to train and work Axe the right way. You had to understand Axe and his thinking. Once we connected and once he realized that, ‘Hey, this is where I’m at and this is where I’m going to stay,’ he became much easier to train.”

K-9 partners are used in many police forces to help detect narcotics, search buildings and outside areas, search for items, and apprehend suspects, Raby said. K-9s live at home with their partners and become integrated into their families, he said.

Raby said that Axe went on a total of 1,185 runs throughout his career, which resulted in 39 guns recovered, 153 felony arrests, 100 misdemeanor arrests, 50 track apprehensions and approximately $500,000 in narcotics recovered.

The bond that Raby and Axe shared was like no other, he said.

“If you could just imagine the best of friends spending every minute together — you never really get tired of each other. You live for each other. I took care of him, but he took care of me. It’s hard to describe in words other than you just live for one another,” Raby said.

The Michigan War Dog Memorial, according to organization President Phil Weitlauf, was transformed in 2010 from an abandoned pet cemetery into a burial site that caters to military and police dogs.

Weitlauf, an Army veteran, said the memorial runs solely on donations, and funeral services are at no cost to the dogs’ families.

“We want the dog to be totally respected and honored and have a final resting place for their service to our community and country,” he said. “We supply a headstone at no charge. It’s our way of showing respect and payback for the job they did for us. These dogs protect us each and every day. We need to show them respect.”

“It was a very moving and nice service. He had full police honors with the honor guard and a full police burial,” Raby said. “It was well-deserved. He was a very hardworking dog.”

For more information on the Michigan War Dog Memorial, go to mwdm.org.