It’s not everyday that an Episcopal priest leads a funeral procession for a dog. But it’s not everyday that a community comes together to mourn a dog like Ando.
He was one of a special breed, not in the sense of canine genetics, but in his public service.
Ando, a German shepherd, served for seven years as Ligonier Township’s K-9 police officer. He was euthanized last week, one month after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. That’s when officials turned to the Rev. Dr. James Simons, Rector of St. Michael’s of the Valley in Ligonier.
“They asked me to officiate at a community memorial service,” said Dr. Simons, who added that he has sometimes been asked by animal owners to help them deal with the loss of a family pet or horse.
More than 200 people turned out to pay tribute to Ando, according to the Tribune-Review, one of many news organizations covering the August 23rd event on the Diamond in Ligonier. The service began with bagpipes and prayers; it ended with the retiring of Ando’s badge and the sounding of Taps.
Many denominations, including the Episcopal Church, have prayers for the blessing of animals. Few offer rites for their funerals. Dr. Simons found a service used by an Episcopal Church that spoke to the proper place of animals within all of God’s creation.
“Every creature which is in heaven and on the earth… I heard saying, ‘Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power be unto him’,” was read in the opening anthem from Revelation, as was “the soul of every living thing and the spirit of all flesh is in God’s hands” from Job. One prayer recalled that Tobiah in the Old Testament was accompanied by the Archangel Raphael and by a dog.
Ando accompanied his fellow (human) officers on over 450 police calls. He is credited with 254 narcotics discoveries and assisting in 51 arrests.
“I’m reminded of the movie ‘All Dogs Go to Heaven,’” Dr. Simons said at the service. “Well, I don’t know if all dogs go to heaven, but I know this one did."
Photos courtesy Lindsey Simons and the Ligonier Twp. Police