Newton police Cpl. Tony Hawpe and his wife Robyn consider their dogs to be their children.
On Friday, they said goodbye to one of their own, but not alone.
Members of Harvey County law enforcement stood and saluted outside a veterinary clinic as Hawpe walked longtime K-9 Carla inside to be put down.
A video shows Hawpe drive up in his SUV with the lights on. He helped Carla out of the vehicle and then the two walked slowly toward the clinic.
Carla was plagued by arthritis and struggled to walk. Even after starting prescribed medications, she would awake every few hours during the night, howling in pain.
“She will no longer have to suffer from her arthritis and the inability to stand on her own,” Hawpe said. “It has been a rough week of getting up every two hours in the night to the sound of her yelping because she can not stand up. Even when she does stand, her balance is poor and she takes tiny steps due to the pain. She is medicated, but at her age, it does little to help.”
Carla retired in 2015 after 12 years at Hawpe's side. Since that time, she has lived with Hawpe and his wife and a Yorkie named Baby Girl.
Close to her appointment, K-9 Handlers Josh Lowe and Jose Jurado arrived at Hawpe's house in uniform. They, and their companions K-9 Elsa and K-9 Pancho, were Carla's escort for her last ride in a police cruiser.
About one-half mile from the clinic, emergency lights were activated.
“As we got closer, I could suddenly see emergency lights in the distance. An overwhelming sense of pride set in as I realized what was happening,” Hawpe wrote on his Facebook page. “Multiple patrol cars and fire trucks were lined up waiting for us. There were many people scurrying around as we approached and I could see two line formations of uniformed officers at the entrance to the hospital.”
Hawpe helped Carla out of the car, and then led her through the two-line salute.
“The feeling of peace that filled us as we saw her laying there not suffering anymore was a surprising relief. This, by itself, was the evidence we needed to know our decision was correct,” Hawpe wrote.
When on active duty, Carla helped with drug busts. She was also an ambassador for the Newton Police Department, often visiting elementary schools for demonstrations in front of children.
During her years of service Carla was utilized to search more than 2,500 vehicles, assisted the FBI in searching a jet and processing several FBI search warrants, seized more than $52,000 in illegal marijuana and $79,000 in methamphetamine, searched more than 60 schools from Goodland to Manhattan and was utilized for more than 132 demonstrations within the community and surrounding counties. She placed six times during the annual Heart of America Police Dog Association (HAPDA) certification for Patrol Dog and 2 times for Detector Dog with first place finishes for both in 2013.
Hawpe has a new partner now — Bella. Following meetings of the Heartland of America Police Dog Association, the team of Bella and Hawpe were named master tracker.
But to Hawpe, and to others, Bella is not a replacement. She's different — no one will ever replace Carla.
“I know she touched many people’s lives in our community and I want to say thank you,” Hawpe said. “It makes me very proud that people of our community often still ask about her.”