His name is ROGeR. And the big-eared, dark-eyed 3-month-old German shepherd has become the unofficial mascot for the Lakewood Police Department.
He’s named after the four officers killed Nov. 29 in a Parkland coffee shop. His name is derived from the first letters of the last names of the slain officers – Sgt. Mark Renninger and officers Ronald Owens, Tina Griswold and Greg Richards.
Already, he’s brightened up a department still mourning its loss. Whenever ROGeR’s in the building, workers stop what they’re doing and give him some love. If that doesn’t happen fast enough ROGeR follows people around until they give him a pat.
“It’s been a real uplift and boost to the spirits of our folks,” Police Chief Bret Farrar said Wednesday.
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That delights Jim and Gail Wells, the Tacoma couple who donated ROGeR to the department.
“I can’t tell you how much it touches our heart,” Gail Wells, 56, said Wednesday.
She used to breed German shepherds when she lived in Canada but took a 30-year break after moving to Tacoma.
More recently she and her husband have been showing their 2-year-old female German shepherd, Fircrest EZ Duz It of Echowind, at dog events in the Northwest. They decided to breed her so they could continue her blood line.
Fircrest had seven pups – six girls and a boy – Nov. 12. The Wells gave each a nickname. ROGeR – a black-and-tan pup with big ears and large paws – was “my little man,” Gail Wells said.
After the fatal shooting, the Wellses wanted to do something for the police department.
“It just affected us and touched us so deeply,” Gail Wells said. “We just didn’t know what to do.”
One day, Jim Wells saw a group of Lakewood officers at a grocery store. They were selling T-shirts to raise money for the families of the slain officers.
Jim Wells gave them his card and said he was interested in donating a puppy from their litter to the department to train as a K-9 officer. Or, the Wells were interested in donating proceeds of the sale of the puppy to the department.
Sgt. Andy Suver contacted the Wells and said the department was interested. Gail Wells said two other people had dibs on the male puppy but when the Wells explained the situation to them, both backed out.
Lakewood officers picked their puppy up Jan. 14. The department had the name ROGeR already picked out.
As for the puppy’s registered name with the American Kennel Club, the Wells had decided the theme of the litter would be songs or album titles.
Lakewood decided ROGeR’s registered name would be The Dance, a Garth Brooks song Lakewood officer Gene Sievers sung during the Dec. 8 public memorial service for Renninger, Owens, Griswold and Richards.
The Wells registered ROGeR with the American Kennel Club as Echowind’s The Dance.
For now, he’s staying at the home of Lakewood officer Paul Osness, whose wife came up with the name ROGeR.
Paul Osness volunteered to care for the puppy until the dog is mature enough to be tested to see whether he can work as a K-9 officer, said Lt. Heidi Hoffman. The testing will be done when ROGeR’s 12 to 15 months old.
If he passes, he’ll join the department’s tracking dog and two drug dogs. If ROGeR doesn’t work out as a working police dog, he’ll be kept as a pet.
If ROGeR’s police career works out, the Wells will be happy.
“It is an awesome, honorable profession for a German shepherd dog,” Gail Wells said.
Regardless of his job description ROGeR will have a life’s work
“He’s doing a job already and helping them smile,” Gail Wells said. “He’s just going to be very important to the whole department.”
Roger that, Farrar said.
“He’ll always be the Lakewood Police Department’s mascot,” the chief promised. “That’s for sure.”
Stacey Mulick: 253-597-8268