Aurora -- Sayro, the city's first police dog who tracked down criminals and snuggled up next to young children with equal passion, has stepped down from the police force.
"He was a great partner," said Patrolman Bill Byers, who was Sayro's handler. "He was very obedient and did what we needed him to do. He was an excellent resource for the city."
Sayro, 7, retired Dec. 31, 2012, after serving as a police canine since 2007.
"About 5 to 7 years is what you expect out of a work dog," Aurora Police Chief Seth Riewaldt said. "The dog was great. But it was time. The dog had done over five years here."
Sayro resides at Byers' home along his other dog, Soapy, an 8-year-old female black Labrador Retriever.
Life these days is "very laid back" for Sayro, according to Byers.
"The adjustment has been slow," Byers said. "He hasn't taken to it too well, but he is doing a lot better.
"Sayro was used to being with me 24 hours a day," he said. "Now, he is away from me about 10 to 12 hours a day. Shepherds have a lot of separation anxiety, and work dogs have high drive. Retirement for a work dog is difficult. We're helping him change gears."
Sayro, who was imported from the Czech Republic, was paid for by the Rotary Club of Aurora, Riewaldt said. The dog joined the police department in April 2007 following weeks of intensive training. His veterinary needs were taken care of voluntarily by Dr. Ellen Imhof and the Aurora Veterinary Clinic.
Sayro was made available through mutual aid to neighboring departments and to the Portage County Drug Task Force.
He assisted Byers in the arrest of 14 suspects during his first three months of patrol work. He was trained in detecting narcotics, tracking and protecting his partner.
SAYRO ACTED as a back-up on alarm drops, felony traffic stops and building searches. He was used to tracking suspects who fled on foot and assisted with search warrants. He also responded to "person with gun" calls.
Byers said he had many memorable incidents with Sayro.
"Once, after an accidental shooting, he retrieved shell casings from the gun in a grassy area," he said. "Another time, after some cars had been broken into, he tracked an individual through the woods and found a pile of six or seven stolen radios."
Sayro's photo appeared on the cover of the police department's 2012 annual report. The canine was shown with 3 pounds of marijuana that he helped confiscate.
Byers said Sayro was used as a resource to assist in keeping the schools drug free.
"We were very proactive with Sayro," he said. "He and I would get out of the car and walk around. He would be a presence and interact with the students. We'd go into classrooms and talk to them. They got to talk to police officer and pet a dog. Those were powerful experiences for the kids and for me as a police officer."
Sayro participated in public demonstrations and at Safety Town the last five years.
"Sayro loves to play and meet new people, especially children," Byers said. "He is awesome. He will get down on all fours and lay with special needs children and lick them. He is so gentle with children. He knew his job. He was great."
Riewaldt said he hopes the department can acquire another police dog in 2014 because he said there is not enough money in this year's budget for a new canine.
"It was a highlight of my career to work with Sayro," Byers added.
Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187