Day in and day out, police officer Brian Kitko and Max the Belgian Malinois were at each other’s sides.
From police missions to time at home, the pair were nearly inseparable, according to the Grove City, Ohio Police Department. But in early June, the two made their last call together.
A cancerous growth was discovered on Max, resulting in emergency surgery. It was a risky procedure, and sadly, Max did not survive.
Max had been with the police department since 2015. His 6-year tenure has left a hole in the department, which is now mourning the loss of one of their own.
“It was so unexpected,” said police Lt. Jason Stern. “Most of us are still processing it. It is shocking. He was so healthy and had endless energy.”
Unfortunately, growths like the one that Max had can go undetected for a long time. By the time the opportunity for surgery arises, it is sometimes too late.
Max joined the department when he was just 2 years old. According to the department, he was the force’s first canine officer since the 1960s. There, he would assist officers with narcotics detection, criminal apprehension, and article search.
He served with the special operations bureau and patrol — and assisted in more than 600 arrests during his career.
“That is pretty tremendous,” said Stern. “That is about 100 arrests a year. That is a lot for anybody.”
Not only was Max a great worker on the police force, but he was also a community asset. Kitko and Max participated in Grove City events, marched in parades, and were regular presenters at the Grove City Library.
“Max was kind of a celebrity,” Stern said. “Max was a serious working dog – he was all business. But he would go out in the community around kids, and he was great. That was a well-done component of Brian’s job.”
As for the future of the canine program in the Grove City Division of Police, Stern said that it is still up in the air.
“The sudden nature (of Max’s death) caught us flat-footed,” Stern said. “We are not prepared to open that door yet.”
On June 15, Max’s life was celebrated with a small police procession through Grove City with his remains in tow. It was a private matter, as requested by Officer Kitko.
At the police office, there is a patio with bricks that feature the names of retired officers. Stern said that they might dedicate one of the bricks to Max.
After all, he was one of their own.