January 25, 2012

Sabre, Cornell’s First Police Dog, Dies After Eight Years of Service

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After years of serving the campus, a nimble member of the Cornell Police Department and Cornell’s first police dog, Sabre, died on Jan. 5. The 12-year-old dog, which suffered from a chronic infection before its death, left behind a legacy for other trained canines to come.CUPD Lieutenant Jeff Montesano, Sabre’s handler, said that it was difficult to adjust to life without his dog companion.

“Eight years and he was with me every day,” Montesano said. “When I’d go to work, he’d see me getting dressed and … get my uniform on, and he’d run and get next to the door to wait for me. He knew he was going to work.”

Sabre, a black Labrador Retriever, was rescued when he was 18 months old from the Tompkins County SPCA. Trained to detect explosives, Sabre was always active and ready to work, according to Montesano.

“He had a lot of energy, which in our world, we call a play drive. That’s what we need for this kind of work — a dog with lots of play drive, and he had it. He wanted to work. He needed a job,” he said.

Sabre served the CUPD for eight years, keeping venues safe for Cornell students as well as dignitaries such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former President Bill Clinton, the Dalai Lama and celebrities like Gwen Stefani and the Black Eyed Peas.

During his career, Sabre sniffed out and searched around many large venues in the area, including the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport and local schools.

“We were one of the only resources [with an explosive-detecting canine] around for a long time,” Montesano said.

Montesano said that he had developed a special bond with Sabre, a bond he said was critical to their teamwork.

“It’s a bond. It’s a trust bond, really. And you just learn your dog’s behaviors from being with them all the time,” he said.

More than just a bomb-sniffing dog, the friendly Sabre was also the mascot for Cornell police.

“Sabre was a great ambassador for us. He was great for community policing. Everybody likes to pet a dog … and he was just so happy-go-lucky that he made friends with everybody,” Montesano said.

Reggie, a rescued four-year-old Labrador, is now filling Sabre’s shoes.

“[Reggie’s] doing real fine. He’s also very friendly … [He’s] your typical lab. He likes to bark a little more than Sabre did,” Montesano said.

Susan Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services, said she was saddened by the news of Sabre’s death.

“It was a very poignant moment when [Sabre] retired and Reggie was commissioned. I will admit, when they removed his collar (his badge) and gave it to Reggie, there were tears in my eyes. He had served admirably in his career,” Murphy wrote in an email.

Murphy said that both Sabre and Montesano did pioneering work for Cornell.

“We were fortunate to have [Sabre] on staff,” she wrote.

A memorial will be held for Sabre in February, according to CUPD.

“It’ll be a tough day here,” Montesano said. “He was pretty special to us. He was the first canine we ever had and he’s laid the path for years to come, I hope. He was good.”

Original Author: Jinjoo Lee