By BRIAN BULLOCK
The Brookings Police Department is mourning the death of a fellow officer this week.
On Monday morning, Hojee von Silberwiese, a six-year police dog of the force, died, and his passing is being felt not just throughout the police department, but throughout the community.
Hojee, perhaps the most well-known officer on the Brookings police force, was put to sleep after a short, valiant battle with a spinal disease.
Brookings Chief of Police Chris Wallace felt the loss the hardest. He handled the 8-year-old German Shepherd from when he was a pup until he "jacketed him up" for the final time on Monday.
"When you're a handler, you spend more time with your dog than you do with your wife and kids," Wallace said quietly during an interview Monday.
He said he would often get home with Hojee late at night after his family was asleep, so he would wind down in front of the television with him by his side. And Wallace said he would wake up and get ready for work with Hojee raring to go after his wife and children had left for work and school.
Because of that bond, Wallace said he had to spend part of Monday with his young daughters who had known Hojee as their only dog.
At work, Hojee was easily the most well-trained and effective officer on the Brookings police force, Wallace said. He was certified as a police K-9 officer by the time he was 2, an incredibly early age.
Hojee was effective in any realm in which he was placed, Wallace said. He was a great tracker. He was cross trained in narcotics detection and he was an outstanding public relations officer, he said.
"His tracking instincts were phenomenal," Wallace said, explaining his ability to find either people or drugs that others could not.
Wallace said Hojee tracked down one particular area felon twice within weeks and discovered a cache of marijuana when other officers and dogs couldn't.
The chief also said Hojee became a trusted partner and loyal friend.
"You get in a few situations where you get him protecting you or another officer and that bond just gets stronger," Wallace said.
"Hojee was one of us," said Lt. John Bishop, who had also known Hojee since he was a pup. "When we did search warrants, I can't tell you how much more at ease we were when he was with us.
"Those dogs save our lives. They keep us from getting hurt."
In addition to his daily duties in law enforcement, Hojee visited with Brookings-Harbor school children through the department's Safety City and similar programs.
Wallace said Hojee's popularity was also felt well beyond the department. He said a woman at the Azalea Festival ran up to him with tears in her eyes asking for another "Hojee" trading card.
"She said her son had a card he went to sleep with every night and he had just worn it out," Wallace said with a smile.
He gladly obliged the request.
"On a certain level, he was the community's dog. God just allowed me to handle him," Wallace said.
That kind of loyalty is why Hojee's death has hit the department so hard. When the time had come for Hojee to be put to sleep, Wallace, Bishop, John McKinney, one of Hojee's trainers, and Donny Dotson, an officer who handles K-9 officer Robby, were present.
"There's going to be very few times you'll see four officers with tears in their eyes, but (Monday) was one of them," Bishop said.
Wallace said the toughest thing he has ever had to do was take Hojee's badge off for the final time.
He said it was difficult because Hojee's mind was still very sharp, he just couldn't control his hind legs.
"One thing I would like to say to the community is a sincere thank you,'" Wallace said. "We've gotten a lot of messages from the community about Hojee."
Wallace brought out a framed poem he received while he was handling Hojee. Bishop read the poem, "Guardians of the Night," that Wallace said was a perfect description of Hojee.
"Trust in me my friend for I am your comrade. I will protect you with my last breath.
"When all others have left you, and the loneliness of the night closes in, I will be at your side. Together we will conquer all obstacles and search out those who might wish to harm others.
"All I ask of you is compassion, the caring touch of your hands.
"It is for you that I will selflessly give my life and spend my nights unrested.
"...Together you and I shall experience a bond only others like you will understand. When outsiders see us together, their envy will be measured by their disdain.
"I will quietly listen to you and pass no judgement. Nor will your spoken words be repeated. I will remain ever silent, ever vigilant, ever loyal.
"And when our time together is done and you move on in the world, remember me with kind thoughts and tales. For a time we were unbeatable. Nothing passed among us undetected.
"If we should ever meet again on another field, I will gladly take up your fight. I am a Police Working Dog and together we are Guardians of the Night."
"That was Hojee," Bishop said.
The Brookings City Council, through a request from the police department, voted Monday to erect a memorial to Hojee and other K-9 officers who served the force.