More often than not, people will tell me that the one thing they treasure most about their pets is that their animals seem to know how they are feeling.  That innate sense of when something is wrong, and the ability to respond in their own small way to provide comfort, is what forges the bond between many humans and their animals.  How do they “know”?  There are many theories on the subject, but sometimes it is just a beauty to watch it happen.  I was able to do that yesterday.

Police Sergeant Ryan Russell was killed in the line of duty on January 12, 2011, when he was hit by a stolen snowplow.  Last Tuesday, amidst a reprieve from the cold temperatures, the City of Toronto came out to pay their respects.  It was quite a sight to see as thousands of officers in dress uniform, as well as civilians associated with the Service, march as one group down University Avenue.  They came from all over Canada and the US and filled the street with a sea of blue and red (I personally have never seen so many RCMP in one place) in advance of Sergeant Russell’s casket.

Included in this number were the members of the Mounted and Police Dog Services.  Watching them, it seemed that these animal officers understood what they were there to do – to pay their respects to their fallen comrade.  They too, marched – their paws and hoofs in line with the others.  They looked ahead and and, in the case of the Mounted unit, set the pace for the rest.  Dignified mourning in the face of tragedy.

Toronto is fortunate, for the city of 2.5 million (5.5 million if you count the GTA) has not had a police officer killed in the line of duty since 2002.  It says a lot about the city I call my home.  But for those that knew him, that statistic must seem rather insignificant now.  My condolences to Sergeant Ryan Russell’s family, friends and colleagues.

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