Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson officiated the memorial service held for K9 officer Rocky on Wednesday, July 17, at 10 a.m. at the county’s civic center.

Also officiating the “End of Watch” memorial was Holly Cripps, who penned the memorial program poem, “Never Apart.”

K9 Rocky was shot in the line of duty during an incident that occurred during the serving of a felony warrant at a home south of Chickamauga on July 6.

The memorial held July 17 acknowledged K9 Rocky’s years of service verbally and in photos. And, a token of appreciation was provided to his handler, Deputy Corey Griffin, who was present along with his son Dalton.

Family, friends, and professional law enforcement colleagues turned out to show their appreciation to the fallen K9 officer for his contributions to the Sheriff’s Office and the citizens of Walker County, as well as to extend condolences to the K9’s partner, Griffin, and the law enforcement department for their significant loss.

During the somber ceremony, Sheriff Wilson said when he saw Dalton, deputy sheriff Griffin’s young son, “getting out of the car out there (at the memorial) with tears running down his face, sobbing, he remembered when he lost a dog at about his age, he remembered how devastating it was.”

“I remember how I cried, Dalton,” the sheriff said to the youth in attendance. “It’s OK to cry,” he said.

“And for some reason the old saying has popped into my mind that says ‘if you didn’t cry when Old Yeller died, something’s wrong with you,” Wilson said.

“So, it’s OK to shed a tear or two, because he was your friend, he was your partner and he was your buddy,” the sheriff told the youth who came to know and love his father’s K9 partner.”

“The Bible instructs us in Genesis 1: 24-26, ‘That God commanded, ‘Let the earth produce all kinds of animal life: domestic and wild, large and small,’ and it was done. So, God made them all and he was pleased with what he saw. Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, and our likeness, and then let them rule over the fish of the sea, and the birds of the air, and over the livestock, and over all the earth and over all the creatures that move along the ground,’” Wilson said.

“And when God created mankind he intended for man to be superior to animals and for animals to be subservient to man. God got it right when he paired you, Corey, and Rocky. No doubt about it. He always gets it right, and he got it right then, too,” the sheriff told the partner of K9 Rocky.

“Corey, you were his master for four years and Rocky received gratification for serving you. Likewise, you were rewarded with his unconditional love and affection. Rocky didn’t care what kind of day you had had, what went wrong at work or what your mood was when you got home. He was still ready to lick you in the face and jump in your lap,” sheriff Wilson said.

In closing, Wilson turned his remarks to the fallen officer, reciting a Mark Twain quote: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

“Rocky always had a fight within him. Rocky, I will always be grateful for your service to Walker County Sheriff’s Office,” Wilson said.

And, then, the sheriff asked something of the audience in attendance:

“I would like to ask each one of you in the weeks to come to do something for me. I want to ask you to reach out to Corey, whether it be by text or by card in the mail, or just a pat on the back when you see him walking around the office somewhere.

“Let him know that you care for him and that you support him through this loss. And, yes, it’s a loss. Somebody may say, ‘we’ll, it’s just an animal.’ Yes, Rocky was an animal, but he was also his partner. He loved him.”

Jan Morris is assistant editor for the Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga., and the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga.