Beloved police dog still has her partner’s back

Monroe County Sheriff's Department Lt. Jim Lansing displays his tattoo of Sari. (Alan Dooley photo)

Monroe County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Jim Lansing displays his tattoo of Sari.
(Alan Dooley photo)

This is a story about a dog.  Not just any dog. It’s another chapter in the story of Sari, Monroe County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Jim Lansing’s loyal K-9 for a decade.

It is a story about how Sari continues on Lansing’s left side – where she lay, sat, stood, watched, and from where she led Lansing on searches.

And it is a story about a tattoo. If any readers are offended by these artworks, we ask you to read the story first and keep an open mind.

Sari laid down in the back of Lansing’s patrol car on July 20, 2015, and never got up again. Lansing was devastated, and for days, weeks and months, went through the grief we all share when we lose a loyal animal, special companion and family member.

“I asked others who had lost loved ones – and dogs certainly are – how they had come to terms with their losses.  A recurring answer was a tattoo.  Some have chosen to have a name placed on their body. Or perhaps a special symbol helps them remember and hold a lost memory. I chose to have Sari’s image and name placed on my left shoulder,” Lansing said quietly in his office.

“She was always at my left side when we were patrolling out of the car. She watched out for me. She had my back,” he continued.

So Lansing decided that was where she should be for the rest of his life – on his back, looking over his left shoulder.

“I can’t see her, but as when she was alive, I know she is there – she has my back,” he said.

On Oct. 20, three months after she left this life, Lansing had a tattoo of her, looking over his left shoulder, placed artfully on his shoulder by Brandon Turner of The Inkwell in Fairview Heights. It is a very special tattoo, because mixed carefully in the ink that makes it up, are some of Sari’s ashes from her cremation.

And this week, 13 months after Sari died, Lansing finally agreed to tell this story.

“I have been hesitant,” he said.  “Some are offended by tattoos, but I hope they will understand mine. It is normally hidden by my clothing, but it is always a comfort to me.”

Recently, Lansing received another memory of Sari. He provided a piece of the metal that was her kennel, asking that her name be engraved into it.  What came back from Derek Mayberry of Red Bud, owner and artist at Clinton County Metal Works, was the kennel piece with the name “Sari” cut skillfully into it, backed up by a metal silhouette of a German Shepherd that is obviously – down to the broken tooth Sari suffered years ago – Sari.

“It’s been here at my office since it came,” Lansing said.  “But I think I am going to take it home and place it with pictures, a flag and other memories.”
Lansing spoke with love and reverence for Sari.

“When I went up north to get her years ago, the man who trained her and sold her to me told me, ‘All of my dogs are good dogs, but some are special. And this one is especially special,’ he told me. I thought he was just trying to make me feel good as I handed him a check for $9,750,” Lansing said with a laugh.

But as a soft smile replaced his laugh, he added, “And she was, indeed, so special.”

Lansing said Sari was intensely loyal and had an incredible sense of smell. He remembered an exercise conducted many months ago at Waterloo Sportsman’s Club.

“We were tracking a simulated armed man threatening suicide. And the exercise included dead ends, diversions, like discarded clothing items and a simulated injured child.  And Sari ran us all ragged as she took us through woods, fields, down roads and up and down hills, nearly up to the role player hiding in a wooded area,” he remembered.

“I have two scrapbooks of pictures, news stories, letters and so forth. But I have not been able to touch the many stories and messages that have come out since we lost her,” he said. “I think I am ready to build a third book that covers her story since then.”

Indeed, Lansing seems to be arriving at that point. And appropriately, Sari will be looking over his left shoulder as he performs this task of love.

We think he may feel a soft breeze then, too. Sari will wag her tail to remind him she has his back.

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Alan Dooley

Alan is a photojournalist -- he both shoots pictures and writes for the R-T. A 31-year Navy vet, he has lived worldwide, but with his wife Sherry, calls a rambling house south of Waterloo home. Alan counts astronomy as a hobby and is fascinated by just about everything scientific.
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