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Nov 9, 2009 10:16 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Village K-9 cop dies

Nov 9, 2009 10:16 AM

After years of faithful and loyal service to the Southampton Village Police Department, Spirit, an 8-year-old German shepherd police dog, died suddenly at a veterinary hospital in West Islip during the early morning hours of October 25.

Spirit’s handler, Southampton Village Police Officer Mike Medio, said that the dog, which worked alongside the department’s officers since 2002, started having difficulty breathing on October 23. He underwent surgery at the animal hospital on the night of October 24 but never recovered.

“It was very unexpected,” Officer Medio said. “I just saw that he was not okay breathing Friday.”

Officer Medio said he took the dog to a veterinarian at Olde Towne Animal Hospital on County Road 39 on October 23. The veterinarian there could not determine what was inhibiting Spirit’s breathing, but ruled out that the dog had a tear in his trachea or esophagus through an endoscopy and then advised Officer Medio to take Spirit to the Veterinary Medical Center of Long Island in West Islip. Specialists there determined that Spirit had a hole in his lung.

“I have no idea how he got it,” Officer Medio said. “He hadn’t had any trauma that would have caused it.

“It’s one of life’s great mysteries,” he added.

Spirit underwent surgery in which his lung was removed, but he never recovered, Officer Medio said. “They removed the lung on Saturday evening, and then called early Sunday morning to say that he had not responded to surgery and was not able to breathe on his own,” Officer Medio explained, adding that the police dog’s oxygen levels never reached a healthy level.

He said that the veterinarians told him some dogs are able to live with a lung removed, but Spirit could not.

As a handler, Officer Medio took special care of Spirit, trained with him once a week at a Suffolk County Police Department facility in Yaphank, and worked with him on investigations as a team. The duo responded to calls across Southampton and East Hampton towns, as the Southampton Village Police Department is the only one east of Riverhead with a canine unit, Southampton Village Police Chief William Wilson explained.

“He was a good police dog,” Officer Medio said. “He had many criminal apprehensions, has been on searches at motor vehicle accidents where the victims walk away and need to be found.”

Chief Wilson said that one of Officer Medio’s and Spirit’s greatest accomplishments was locating the body of murder victim Vinessa Hoera in the fields south of the 106th Rescue Wing of the Air National Guard at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton. Faustino Chavez pleaded guilty in 2004 to raping and killing Ms. Hoera and then placing her body in those woods.

In addition to locating the remains of Ms. Hoera, Spirit found a loaded gun thrown into an overgrown sump at the corner of Hillcrest Avenue and Windward Way in Southampton Village about a year ago. “It was loaded, lying on the ground for anyone to pick up,” Chief Wilson said. “Spirit found it within half an hour from the beginning of the call.

“If the police had been searching through the wooded section, they may not have been able to find it,” he added.

Chief Wilson said that he is committed to maintaining a canine unit at the Southampton Village Police Department, and explained that Spirit showed how helpful man’s best friend can be. “We utilize the dog very frequently,” he said.

Chief Wilson explained that the canine program has been in place for 20 years, and that all of the dogs who have served in the department were purchased through donations from village residents who are strongly in favor of police dogs.

“There are some people who view having a canine unit as a luxury, but I see it more as a necessity, especially because it’s not cost-prohibitive” Chief Wilson said. “People have been generous.”

The dogs, which are imported from Europe and come with special tattoos and breeding papers, typically run about $5,000, Chief Wilson said. He added that since Spirit died, village residents have already come forward with donations toward purchasing a new dog.

Although Spirit is no longer a member of the department, his remains, as well as those of deceased police dog Yago, will become part of a memorial located in front of the Windmill Lane headquarters, Officer Medio said. He noted that he has Yago’s ashes in his home, as he handled him for 10 years, and will have Spirit’s ashes, as well.

The memorial will recognize the work of Spirit, Yago, and another former police dog, Buddy, Officer Medio said. Retired Officer Mike Schucht handled Buddy in the late 1980s into the 1990s.

Spirit made it through 16 weeks of training to be a regular police dog, Officer Medio explained. “He was an enthusiastic, energetic, very possessive dog,” he said.

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RIP Spirit, and thank you for your selfless service.
PO Medio, my condolences..you lost a great partner.
By cpk21 (16), Hampton Bays on Nov 3, 09 2:45 PM
1 member liked this comment
what happened? he was so young! what a loss. terrible
By big (14), sag harbor on Nov 4, 09 5:56 AM
May Spirit be at peace over the Rainbow bridge. What a great loss. Saving a life in his honor by training a great shelter dog would be incredible. Pit bulls are proven to be wonderful K9 dogs also. We need to take notice to not only the sheperds k9 abilities, but also other breeds.
By limom3 (6), ronkonkoma on Nov 4, 09 9:51 AM
what I wouldn't do to bring you home again - your time with us was far too short - so many people loved you and we all appreciate all you did for our community - forever in our hearts - we miss you terribly!
By kjm (1), Water MIll on Nov 4, 09 10:06 AM
Please take a peek at a great website

RIP Spirit.
By limom3 (6), ronkonkoma on Nov 4, 09 11:06 AM
I'm sure Spirit tracked down our lawless kin more than a few times. We'll miss you buddy!
By we could run this town! (129), wonderful Wainscott on Nov 4, 09 12:26 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By HarborDad (37), Sag Harbor on Nov 9, 09 8:10 PM
My condolences to Police Officer Medio and The Southampton Village Police Department. Even though Spirit is no longer here in the physical form, may his Spirit be a comfort around the Police Department!
By tpipchinski (2), Riverhead on Nov 10, 09 4:13 PM
mike ,real sorry for your sudden loss. Spirt was a real good looking sheperd. They truly are mans best friend.
By Bestmod (8), southampton on Nov 12, 09 5:53 AM
RIP Spirit
By Puros (30), Hampton Bays on Nov 12, 09 6:24 AM
RIP Spirit.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Nov 12, 09 9:16 AM
Aw, I knew that dog. Very nice dog.
By btdt (449), water mill on Nov 19, 09 10:12 PM