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MEMBERS OF THE San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office and the community gathered recently to remember a service dog that was killed last month in the line of duty.

On a stage located inside the Robert Cabral Agricultural Center in Stockton on Wednesday were colorful flower wreaths with four different screens showcasing a photo of K-9 “Duke,” who was fatally stabbed on Feb. 19 while apprehending a burglary suspect outside of Tracy.

“Today’s an emotional day, it’s a day of remembrance, a day of sorrow,” said Sheriff Patrick Withrow. “But I hope today will also be a day of some joy that we celebrate too, and thank him for his sacrifice that he gave to our family at the office, and his family at home.”

From left, Captain Art Harty, Sheriff Patrick Withrow and his wife Kathy Withrow, and K-9 Duke’s handler Deputy Michael Stewart attend Duke’s memorial service at the San Joaquin County Office of the Agricultural Commissioner in Stockton on March 15, 2023. “Today’s an emotional day,” said Sheriff Withrow. “It’s a day of remembrance, a day of sorrow.” (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

Withrow said the pain of losing Duke was familiar to him because he was formerly a canine handler for 12 years.

Deputy Michael Stewart, Duke’s handler, took the microphone during the ceremony and gave an emotional speech while reminiscing of his times with his partner.

He said that Duke was actually first named Patrick after volunteer puppy raisers, Amie and Matthew Thomas Chapman, raised him for the first year of his life.

“Without these two, we wouldn’t probably have him at the office at all,” said Stewart. “They gave him the foundation, the tools to become a successful working dog later on in his years and in his career.”

Amie Chapman tears up as and Matthew Thomas Chapman listen to a eulogy for K-9 Duke on Wednesday. The Chapmans were Duke’s former handlers, raising him for the first year of his life. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

Stewart described the time the Chapmans took Duke to Universal Studios where he met Scooby and Shaggy and chewed on Scooby’s arm, which drew tears from Amie.

According to Stewart, he and Duke became partners in 2020 and developed a bond from working 12 hours together and living with each other that ultimately saved Stewart’s life.

“It’s that dynamic that most likely saved my life and the lives of other officers that day,” said Stewart about Duke’s last assignment, as he began getting choked up. “I cannot be more thankful or proud of Duke’s actions that day … he lost his life in the most courageous, respectable and heroic way possible.”

Deputy Michael Stewart, K-9 Duke’s handler, gives an emotional speech during the dog’s memorial service on Wednesday. “I cannot be more thankful or proud of Duke’s actions that day … he lost his life in the most courageous, respectable and heroic way possible.” (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

Sheriff Withrow said the last thing Duke saw when he took his last breath was his partner going home safe.

A video was played during the service that showed photos of Duke and Steward while audio of Duke’s final call of service played.

Stewart was presented with Duke’s urn and a flag at the end of the service.

Victoria Franco is a reporter based in Stockton covering San Joaquin County for Bay City News Foundation and its nonprofit news site Local News Matters. She is a Report for America corps member.