By James Beaty
Bosco, the Wonder Dog, the scourge of criminals and the friend of children, is with us no more.
Bosco’s owner and handler, McAlester Police Patrolmen Jeremy Busby, said Bosco had to be put to sleep last week because of a rare, debilitating illness that left him unable to walk.
Although he retired from the police department in 2007, Bosco continued to serve the community. Following the German Shepherd’s retirement, Bosco and Busby presented programs at a number of churches and schools over the past six years, not only in the McAlester area, but also as far away as Broken Arrow.
The two had spent nearly a decade together and officer Busby is obviously saddened at the loss of his canine companion, who lived to be nearly 12 years old.
They first started working together in 2004. Busby became Bosco’s primary handler in 2005, earning his state certification for the K-9 Detection Team that September.
Busby said during the three years Bosco worked for the McAlester Police Department, he sniffed out a lot of drugs.
“In the three years we ran him, he found approximately 500 pounds of marijuana, 10 pounds of methamphetamine, several ounces of cocaine and $45,000 in cash,” Busby said.
The canine detected the cash because it had the scent of drugs on it, Busby said.
Busby said Bosco occasionally made mistakes, but so do people.
“All in all, he was a great K-9. He was very successful,” Busby said.
While some German Shepherds are docile, Bosco tended to be more on the hyper side and it took a strong hand to control him, the officer said.
Bosco became the center of a dispute between Busby and the city of McAlester in 2007. Jim Lyles, police chief at the time, suspended the city’s police dog program after Busby’s attorney filed a suit in federal court alleging that the city failed to adequately compensate Busby for the many off-duty hours the officer had spent caring for the dog.
Lyles said at the time the added expense of paying for the dog’s care hadn’t been budgeted and he didn’t think the program was worth the added expense.
Busby’s lawyer, Oklahoma City attorney James Moore, had said he didn’t think the expense was a valid issue.
“First, the seizures made with the dog allow the city and county to also seize property, such as cars and houses that are used to traffic drugs,” Moore had said. “The city gets part of the proceeds from these seizures and forfeitures, so the canine is actually a money-maker for the city.”
In a case reported by the News-Capital on Feb. 18, 2006, Bosco sniffed out 205 pounds of marijuana after police pulled over a driver on the George Nigh Expressway. Police said then that the marijuana had a street value of $205,000.
Members of the McAlester City Council in office in November 2007 decided to settle the lawsuit for $29,000 and also gave Bosco to Busby as part of the settlement. They also gave Busby the small building that had served as Bosco’s dog house.
Bosco had been housed at the Renegar Animal Hospital since that September after Lyles had suspended the city’s drug dog program.
Busby said the lawsuit was not about money, but about giving him a legal right to have input as to what would happen to Bosco if the police program ended. Busby said he had heard about plans to have Bosco sent back to South Carolina.
“I’m glad Bosco gets to come home, and I’m glad they’ve got this settled,” Busby said in 2007.
Busby and his wife, Tiffany Busby, along with their children, Kylee and Kord, considered Bosco a part of their family.
Although Bosco retired from the police department in 2007, he began working with Busby during presentations at church programs to demonstrate faith in God.
Busby said God had taken the dog from him for a time, a reference to when the dog had to be housed at Renegar’s during the dispute with the city.
“He took the dog away and He gave the dog back to me,” Busby said.
The officer said he then received an inspiration on how the two could continue working together.
“I wanted to show how our lives should work for Christ,” Busby said. He used three key words in his presentations: Love, obedience and reward.
“Bosco had to have love for me to develop this relationship,” Busby would tell the church gatherings, often consisting of children and youth groups.
Because of that love, Bosco would obey him, Busby said during the presentation. For obeying Busby, Bosco would be rewarded with praise and his favorite toy.
“I wanted to show them that Christ loved us so much, he died on the cross for us,” Busby said. “That makes us want to obey Christ.
“We receive our reward through eternal life with Christ in heaven,” Busby said.
At the end of the program, Busby said he would let all the children pet Bosco, who always acted friendly toward his young admirers.
“The only kids I had to watch were the babies,” Busby said, referring to the smallest toddlers. “He liked them so much he wanted to lick them.”
After arriving in the United States as a pup, Bosco had been trained at the Cross Creek Training Academy in Edgefield, S.C., where he underwent training on patrol and tracking. He also learned to detect the odors of 12 different narcotics, including some prescription drugs.
When the McAlester Police Department acquired the dog, officer Kevin Bishop had been his primary handler, a job Busby took over about a year later.
Watching Bosco and Busby work together, it became obvious they had a special affinity. They even shared the same birthday, with Busby born on Jan. 25, 1972, and Bosco born on the same day in 2003.
Busby said he discovered he and Bosco shared the same birthday when he found the canine’s original shipping papers.
“I thought, ‘This was meant to be,”’ Busby said. “This was my sign it was going to work.”
During his time with the MPD, Bosco made a lot of friends on the force.
“We appreciate his service for the department and we have sympathy for officer Busby and his family for their loss,” McAlester Police Chief Gary Wansick said Friday.
“Whenever you have a loss like that, it’s difficult for the entire family, because police dogs become family members.”
After his years of work and play, Bosco had developed a rare condition, finally diagnosed at Oklahoma State University.
Dr. Ewell Center, of the Kiamichi Veterinary Clinic, said the condition is known as fibrotic ossifying myopathy. Center said the condition is seen in German Shepherd working dogs, and there have only been 20 to 25 cases diagnosed in the United States.
“The tendons and muscles become damaged and are replaced with almost bone-like tissue that doesn’t allow for normal range of movement,” Center said.
Like a number of others, Center had gotten to know Bosco over the years.
“He was always an excellent patient,” Center said. “You could tell there was a real connection between him and his handler.
“He was a special animal.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Busby, who was with Bosco when he breathed his last breath, peacefully going to sleep.
“He had a full life,” Busby said.
“I’m very proud of the accomplishments we had.
“He was a very good dog.”
Contact James Beaty at email@example.com.