end of watch

My family and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the residents of Mt. Lebanon, the police administration, the department, and all of the people who supported Sundi and me over these past nine years. Reading all the Facebook posts on the Mt. Lebanon Police Department site, all the emails, all the letters and cards sent and the texts and phone calls helped us get through this past week. Your kindness and sympathy will never be forgotten.

Mike Belak, Pat Moloney (Master Trainer) and I went to Castle K-9 in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, in October 2003 and I was given the leash to a skinny, scruffy, stinky German Shepherd and I was told his name was Sundi. I had no idea was I was getting into but Belak and Moloney told me that he was a good dog and he would do well as a police K9. I was then given a sheet of paper with Hungarian commands which I was told that I would have to learn during basic training.

I drove home with Sundi that same day. He was very smelly, even after two baths at Castle K9 but he was quiet and calm the entire ride home. I was excited about him being quiet, because I often heard Belak’s dog Jerd barking at anything or anyone near his patrol car. I also remember hearing Jerd barking while Belak was trying to speak on the police radio. Well, Sundi didn’t stay quiet or calm for very long. Anyone who walked past my patrol car can attest to the racket he made. Sundi also like to sing along with songs on the radio. Many commented on him howling in the back seat like a wolf. I was told many times, “Your partner seems mad that you left him in the car.” I had to explain to them that he was not upset, he was just singing along to his favorite songs.

Sundi and I completed basic training and started working together on the road in January 2004. We were together for every shift, detail, sporting event and road construction detail for almost nine years. I’ve been a police officer since 1997 working for multiple departments. The best years of my career were the past nine with Sundi.

I cannot describe the bond that developed between us. He was more than just a dog; he was my partner, my protector, and my best friend. Sundi was also a great comfort to my family (wife Lisa, son TJ, and daughter Grace), knowing that this brave, beautiful, and steadfast animal watched over me on those long days and nights at work knowing that no matter what happened, Sundi would have given his life to save mine. It is the same comfort I felt knowing that when I was not at home, Sundi would have protected the ones that I love the most with everything he had.

I will never forget that morning (Sunday September 16, 2012). We left for training at 0600 hours heading to Monroeville. Sunday training was his favorite day of the week. He immediately knew when I came to get him wearing my training clothes where we were going. He raced around the yard like a puppy and jumped into the car like we’ve done some many times before. I knew Sundi was nearing the end of his career but I left the decision up to him when it was time. Sundi earned the right to keep working as long as his body would let him. I always said the he would let me know when he was done. Well in Sundi fashion, he was never subtle in anything he did; he let me know that it was time. The suddenness of his passing is what I am having the most difficult time with. I was not ready to say goodbye.

I remember all the times we met the children and residents of Mt. Lebanon. We enjoyed being in crowds and around people. I loved to talk about him and tell whoever wanted to know what he was capable of doing. I remember all the classroom visits, the Citizen’s Police Academy demonstrations, the walks around the business districts and the Galleria, and the numerous block parties we crashed.

I could go on and on because at this time, the memories are flooding back. The drug searches, the tracks of lost people and fleeing criminals, finding lost cell phone on the hillside of the stadium during games and the rest, but what is foremost in my mind is all the people we got to meet.

My family and I thank you all for your support and kindness over these past nine years. Finally, I am able to say goodbye to Sundi, I will miss you forever.

Ofc. Michael P. Smakosz #1158

Mt. Lebanon Police Department – K9 Unit