Triblive - Flags on all city buildings were lowered to half-staff on Thursday night with the death of a Pittsburgh police dog being hailed as a hero for protecting his handler and fellow officers from a knife-wielding fugitive. Rocco, an 8-year-old German shepherd who became a K-9 officer in 2008, appeared to rally in the morning before dying of stab wounds at 6:17 p.m. in the intensive care unit of the Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center in Ohio Township, city police spokeswoman Diane Richard said. “He died a warrior’s death, and there’s honor in that,” said Anthony Yauch, one of more than two dozen city police officers who rushed to the hospital to stand vigil as word spread that Rocco had developed pneumonia and started to hemorrhage. John L. Rush, 21, of Stowe is accused of attacking Rocco with a pocket knife, stabbing his handler, Officer Philip Lerza, in the shoulder. Two other officers were injured trying to apprehend Rush in the basement of a Lawrenceville building on Tuesday night. Allegheny County sheriff’s deputies were seeking Rush on bench warrants. “(K-9 officers) are trained to take it for us just like we’re trained to take it for you,” said Raymond Kain, a city motorcycle officer and former K-9 handler. “It’s just like losing a human officer,” Richard said. “Tonight, we lost a member of the Pittsburgh police force,” said Mayor Bill Peduto, who ordered the flags lowered after visiting Lerza and his wife at the veterinary hospital. “He died saving his fellow members and lived serving all of us,” said Peduto, adding that Rocco would be buried with the same funeral honors as any other fallen city police officer. A procession of more than two dozen police vehicles, many carrying the city’s 21 K-9 officers, accompanied Rocco’s remains through part of the city. “Officer Lerza lost a member of his family,” said Cmdr. Eric Holmes, who is in charge of the police Zone 2 station in the Hill District where Lerza and Rocco where stationed. “(Handlers) spend more time with their K-9 than they do their own families.” A number of officers sobbed openly outside the hospital as the vigil continued.
So sad, but this is what dog do. They are the bravest animals on the planet. Willing to die to do what is right. Willing to defend their friends and family at all cost no matter the danger or the odds against them. Like I guarantee if Rocco had his choice for it to be him or his partner who made the ultimate sacrifice he wouldn’t even hesitate. Dogs are the only creature that loves others more than they love themselves. RIP Rocco. You will be missed.