'In a league all his own'

Community pays tribute to K9 Bosco

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When I first saw Officer Gregg Bruno’s partner, Bosco, he looked more like a pet than a police K9. After all, my idea of a police dog was a German Shepherd – not, like Bosco, a floppy-eared Yellow Labrador.

Bosco, who retired in July 2015, had a long and celebrated career with Bruno and the Cranston Police Department. He was laid to rest with full police honors this past week at the Final Gift Pet Memorial Center in Cranston. I attended, clutching tissues for the tears that began on the ride to say goodbye.

It had been discovered that Bosco was in pain and suffering from two forms of cancer. Bruno and his family were torn up, as I was when he had called me to fill me in on Bosco’s condition. We both cried on the phone. We knew it was coming, but it was so hard to come to terms with. I kept in touch with Bruno for some time until arrangements were made for Bosco to be laid down and memorialized.

For years I have been writing about Bosco, from the day he got his badge #462 and started his first day on the job in Cranston in April 2008.

During his retirement as the Bruno family’s pet, Bosco loved playing with the children and enjoying life around the house. He would swim in their pool, go for rides in the family car, and play with dog toys and chews.

Bosco was a nationally certified police dog in narcotics detection, tracking, evidence recovery, and obedience, was certified through North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA). He was purchased for $1 from the town of Burriville.

During his service, Bosco played a part in the seizure of more than $600,000 worth of drugs, property, and cash. He was also responsible for locating a gun that was buried three feet below the frozen earth, which was used in a murder in the town of West Warwick. Due to the recovery of the weapon, the culprit is now serving a 26-year prison term.

Bosco was laid to rest with a police escort. Mayor Allan Fung, Chief of Police Col. Michael Winquist, and many police officers and friends – as well as other K9s with their handlers who had trained with Bosco – were in attendance. Of course, Bruno was at his longtime companion’s side holding back tears.

Bosco leaves behind lasting memories for all of us who knew him. I went to the viewing and petted Bosco for the last time and hugged Bruno tightly. To my surprise, someone handed what I was told were the last two “I met Bosco” stickers for me to keep. It meant the world to me.

Bosco was a member of the Cranston police for seven years. He had been involved in many aspects of the department, from patrol work to public appearances and school activities. He was even featured on a recruitment drive billboard. He brought smiles to the faces of countless students and others throughout the community.

I would often see Bruno and Bosco at Safety Day held in Garden City Center each year, and then many other times as we cover special events around Cranston.

I asked Bruno to come with Bosco to Eden Park Elementary School, as I was volunteer teaching current events, fact from fiction, note taking, and writing. My daughter and I both attended elementary school there, and I had wanted to give back.

I volunteer taught for many years to both sixth-grade classes, teaching roughly one session per month, and I knew the students were learning, but they were not right where I wanted them to be. I knew I needed something or someone to come in that would catch the student’s attention and help them improve.

Bruno and Bosco did that for them. I will always remember that the fifth-grade students often came to the window to look at Bosco and his demonstrations, knowing it would be their turn the following year.

We would hold class outside as Bruno and Bosco would do a demonstration and presentation to the students. I had struck gold – not only were the students taking good notes, they also wrote incredible articles about Bosco, which I would later share with Bruno so he knew their work in the classroom had made such a difference. Many articles headed with the students to middle school as writing samples.

I would ask them back for several years as I continued to work with each incoming sixth grade. At the end of every presentation, the sixth-graders were able to come pet Bosco and receive their “I met Bosco” stickers. Bruno would also include students in his demonstrations on search and seizure during each presentation. They were all eager to participate.

Bosco and Bruno also became involved with the DARE program, Family Safety Days, Boy and Girl Scouts, the Citizens Police Academy, the Senior Citizens Police Academy, and more groups and activities throughout our city.

Bruno had told me that he asked 100-plus students one day at Western Hills Middle School how many had heard of Bosco. About 95 percent of the hands were raised. He was a little taken back by that moment and could not believe what they had both accomplished in seven years. He realized the impact Bosco had made and how he had met most of those students in the school system in his years as a K9.

Bosco also has served as an educational tool for students ranging from pre-K all through high school as a part of the DARE program. Bosco had performed hundreds of public demonstrations. Bruno had personally handed out over 5,000 Bosco stickers to all who have met him. To get a sticker, typically a question had to be asked or you had to pet him. This was an important way to make everyone feel comfortable with Bosco.

Bruno now has Zeus, a German Shepard, who is one of three K9 dogs in service in Cranston. With the three K9 officers in varying shifts, the city is covered with active dogs who are trained in specific areas. Zeus, unlike Bosco, was trained to apprehend a suspect. Unlike Bosco, Zeus is a “first responder dog” complete with a protective vest and proper training.

“Zeus has big shoes to fill. Bosco was one in a million and in a league all his own,” Bruno said.

Bosco, who had a wonderful personality and character, had become somewhat of a recognizable celebrity around the police station and the city, and will be greatly missed.

Many tears were shed at Bosco’s final call on Oct. 12. Yet his memory will go on for those lives he touched, like mine.

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