Updated: November 21, 2019 10:39 AM
Created: November 20, 2019 05:45 PM
(ABC 6 News) - They became partners 12 years ago and it was the start of a bond that helped serve the Rochester area for several years. On Tuesday, Keegan passed away at age 13 and his partner, Officer Craig Sammon, took a moment to sit down with ABC 6 News and look back at the life of his four-legged partner.
"You know... last night I worked until midnight last night, I got home. First thing I did was go into the basement to let him out... it's tough not seeing him," said Officer Sammon, tearing up.
Craig Sammon has been a part of the Rochester Police Department for nearly 14 years but has been protecting Minnesota for a little over two decades. 21 years, to be exact. Growing up in Faribault, his neighbor was the Chief of Police and his grandfather was an officer in Owatonna. Officer Sammon says though he had both of those connections with law enforcement, he also wanted to help people. In those 20 years, he says a lot has changed from technology to the atmosphere as well. Another thing that changed in those 20 years started with a dog named Keegan.
"When I got him, he was full grown one-year-old German Shepard named Jonaslav... why I remember that I don't know."
Keegan, or Jonaslav, was born in Yugoslavia and upon coming to America... he didn't understand a lick of English but knew how to bite said, Officer Sammon. Like all new dogs who join the force, Keegan went through a 12 week training period with Officer Sammon. Though the biting, while toned down, continued throughout his life after the training Officer Sammon had his new partner.
"He was a very gentle dog. At work, when he needed to be, he was extremely motivated."
In fact, Keegan became the Rochester Police Department's first K9 to receive a police department commendation for his help in a case back in 2012. The case involved a man who broke into home where the little boy was staying. The suspect stabbed the boy several times, as well as the mom, before fleeing the home. To help find the suspect, the K9 unit was brought it to track the scent.
Officer Sammon remembers following a set of footprints but officers on the scene weren't able to accurately determine, at the time, if they were the suspects' footprints or someone else's. The footprints continued past a detached garage but Keegan stopped, turning to the garage.
"Everybody kept going with the footprints but he stopped and turned to this detached garage, even one of our K9 handlers, at the time, said to keep going. We told him no, let's check the garage, he's indicating the garage, and lone behold... the guy was in the garage hiding."
But at home, Officer Sammon says he knew Keegan as a different dog, one that was able to "flip the switch" and become a gentle giant.
"We have pictures of him in the backyard laying on his back with my daughter petting his tummy when he was two years old. He wouldn't even do that for me."
Not only was Keegan a gentle giant, but he was also a hoarder of toys; taking all the toys out of the basket and putting them all in front of him, grabbing another toy if someone, or one of the Sammon's other dogs, took another. A dog that can't be described in one word as well as a partner, and friend, that won't be forgotten.
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