Beloved police dog dies in Ellsworth

Posted Dec. 14, 2012, at 1:47 p.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — Ellsworth Police Department’s beloved canine, Vegas, died Thursday, five months after he was sent off into retirement.

After serving seven years on the police force, Vegas lived out his final days at the home of Officer Shawn Willey, who had been the German shepherd’s handler since 2005. Vegas retired due to persistent back pain and failing health.

“He was just a great, great asset to the department,” said Police Chief John DeLeo on Friday morning. DeLeo said that aside from having responded to 488 calls — including 117 criminal trackings, 13 missing people, 23 building searches and 284 drug searches — Vegas was also much loved in the community.

See, for example, the Ellsworth Police Department’s Facebook page, DeLeo said. News of Vegas’ death was shared 211 times, “liked” nearly a thousand times, and received 252 comments of condolences.

“RIP big boy. You earned it,” wrote one commenter. “So sorry for your loss Sgt. Willey,” wrote many others.

“When we posted Vegas’ retirement, it was probably the most popular story we had ever posted,” DeLeo said. “This is even bigger. The response from the community has been huge.”

Vegas was replaced in July by Chase, a two-year-old Belgian Malinois.

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.