Chehalis Police Say Goodbye to a ‘Good Dog’

By Natalie Johnson / njohnson@chronline.com

The Chehalis Police Department gathered Tuesday with fellow K9 officers and representatives from departments throughout Western Washington to say a heartfelt goodbye to a beloved partner and friend.

“There’s probably not another working dog that is as loved and spoiled as Reign,” said Centralia Police Sgt. Tracy Murphy. “His life was short, but it was full. He was a joy and he was a good dog.”

K9 Reign, a 5 1/2-year-old Belgian Malinois, was a member of the Chehalis Police Department working with handler Warren Ayers since 2013. He died on June 27 after a still-unexplained medical event during an on-duty training exercise.

The event had many of the features of a memorial for a fallen officer, including a procession to W.F. West High School, a color guard, a performance of the national anthem and bagpipers playing “Amazing Grace.” Officers from the Centralia Police Department and Lewis County Sheriff’s Office attended in support, as well as officers from agencies in Skagit County, Seattle, Battle Ground, Vancouver, Ocean Shores and other areas.

Sgt. Ken Cheeseman, of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, led the memorial, which took place Tuesday morning at W.F. West High School.

Police dogs have a special place in a department, Cheeseman said. They are tasked with apprehending suspects, finding drugs and protecting their handlers and other officers.

“They are the most dedicated officers on the job,” he said. “They always love to come to work.”

Chief Glen Schaffer Schaffer presented Ayers with a commemorative badge for Reign at the end of the ceremony and gave an emotional eulogy for the dog, calling him a “huge asset” for the department.

“Both Reign and Officer Ayers as a team far exceeded my expectations,” he said. “Reign left us way too early but I couldn’t be more proud of him and the job he did.”

Mayor Dennis Dawes, a former Chehalis police officer and chief, also commented on Reign’s benefit to the city.

He noted that when it was time to go to work, Reign meant business. In his few years on the job, he caught more than 50 suspects and recovered an “impressive” amount of narcotics, Dawes said.

“However, when that was done, he could be as gentle as any dog you’d own,” he said.

Like Dawes, many speakers focussed on the tremendous bond Reign and Ayers formed.

When the department decided to purchase and train a patrol dog, Ayers traveled to California to pick out his new partner. He called Schaffer after meeting Reign.

“He says, ‘I want this dog,’” Schaffer said. “That was it. That’s how we got Reign.”

Murphy helped train Reign, and also commented on the bond between handler and dog.

“It wasn’t us that selected him, it was him that selected Warren,” he said.

As area law enforcement officials came to know and love the dog, they learned his strong personality in many ways mirrored his handler’s.

“They are a lot alike. As stubborn and strong willed as Warren is, Reign was equally stubborn,” Murphy said. “If you threw his ball in the sticker bushes, he wouldn’t look for an easy way in … just like Warren.”

Schaffer fondly recalled the dog chewing on toys during meetings and barking over Ayers’ radio traffic.The memorial included a slideshow of pictures showing Reign both at work and home playing and cuddling with Ayers’ family.

“To officer Ayers and family, we share your loss,” Dawes said. “We realize you have not only lost your partner, you’ve lost a member of your family.”

Schaffer said the department wants to continue it’s K9 program but is giving Ayers time to make a decision on his own involvement.