By Eli Ruiz
MONTICELLO A funeral was held on Friday for ‘RC,’ the Sullivan County Sheriff’s K-9, who passed away recently after years of battling health problems.
The 7-year-old German shepherd had to be put down on June 16 after a bout with a critical intestinal ailment.
A large contingent of police officers from several regional agencies as well as some local leaders attended the emotional ceremony, held under a bright blue sky behind the Sullivan County Government Center.
Sheriff’s Deputy Eric Breihof was RC’s handler, and the two trained together at the Orange County Sheriff’s Academy in Montgomery one year after RC was born in 2006.
“First, I’d like to thank everybody who’s here today… it means a lot to my family,” said Breihof in an emotional eulogy in which the deputy broke down several times and had trouble finishing.
“Today we’re here to not only remember my partner but also my best friend,” continued Breihof. “He was the most loyal, the most dedicated, fearless partner you could ever have.… Whether he was in the woods looking for someone, chasing a criminal, clearing a building, searching a car for narcotics or even letting the kids pet him after a K-9 demonstration, he always showed his true greatness.
He added, “He made a difference when it counted, from apprehending criminals to slobbering all over the guys in the office with his disgusting, stinky drool-covered toy and making a mess out of everybody’s uniforms,” added Breihof.
Everyone from Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther to Sullivan County District Attorney Jim Farrell, along with County Manager David Fanslau, were in attendance at the ceremony, which ran just over an hour.
“It’s always sad, but this was a police officer who fearlessly protected and served for all, even through sickness. It’s just very sad,” said Gunther.
Sullivan County Sheriff Mike Schiff, who also attended the ceremony, said in an interview, “RC was not only a member of the Sheriff’s Office but also a member of the Breihof family. The bond they developed made this an extraordinary loss for them.
“This is not only a loss to the Sheriff’s office, but a loss for the community… from all of the different events he [RC] participated in at the schools and in the community. He will be missed by all, and that officer, he went through a lot of pain and dealt with much illness, but no matter how badly he felt, he was always eager to work. He was always there to protect Eric. RC never let the department or his partner down,” added Schiff.
RC was named for the initials of Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Chemerys, who died in 1982 from cancer. Mr. Chemerys’ son Rob was also at Friday’s ceremony.
Breihof also extended his condolences to NYS Trooper Matt Johnstone who, incidentally, lost his longtime K9 partner, JT, on the same day that RC was put down. JT was named for former Trooper Joe T. Averssa.
Averssa was assigned to the Drug Task Force in 1990 and was killed in the line of duty during a botched buy/bust operation. In an interview with the Democrat, Johnstone said “He [JT] was an amazing partner and loved being a police dog. It was his life.”
JT was 12 when he passed and was retired and living at home with Johnstone since his retirement at age 9. “He had a bulging disk in his back so we retired him. He was just relaxing at home but he really just wanted to work. Whenever I’d leave the house for work the poor guy was inconsolable,” added Johnstone.
RC was buried on the grounds of the Orange County Sheriff’s Academy; the very place where he and Breihof did all of their training together when they were first assigned to each other.