Law enforcement personnel from Illinois and Missouri came to the city today to pay their respects to a canine officer whose dog died last week after suffering heat stroke during training.
Officer Felix Arnold carried the ashes of his partner, Simmie, during a memorial service in the East St. Louis city council chambers.
It was a funeral worthy of a hero.
In the morning, two ladder trucks hoisted the American flag and police vehicles drove down third street with sirens blasting.
Arnold wore dark sunglasses to hide the tears. He told those gathered to pay tribute that he was distraught about losing "my best friend" and that he now has a huge void in his life.
"I remember the first time Simmie bit me, I remember Brian (Dowdy) saying it means he loves you. Now the bonding begins, he said. And, he was right," Arnold said.
Other officials shared their condolences and memories of Simmie.
Recalling the time when Simmie helped Arnold apprehend two burglars who broke into the old Lily Freeman School, Mayor Alvin Parks Jr. said "I extend condolence to brother Felix Arnold and all of the canine units who've come. When you lose one out of your own chain your chain becomes a little weaker."
Officer Brian Dowdy, who trained Simmie, shared a story about how Simmie didn't care for him the first time they met.
He said he did something to Arnold that Simmie perceived as a threat and "he bit me," Dowdy said. But once Simmie learned the officer wasn't a threat, "he starting warming for me." Everyone laughed as Dowdy pointed to a spot on his thigh area and said "I have the scar to prove it."
East St. Louis Police Chief Michael Floore said he was "dumbfounded when I saw him work," and honored Cheryl Yarber, of the Belleville Animal Clinic, who takes care of the department's dogs.
"Thank you for all of the work you've done caring for Simmie 'til he took his last breath and for all you've done for all of our dogs," the chief said as the crowd erupted in applause.
It was at the Belleville Animal Clinic that Simmie died. "They did all they could," Arnold said while crying profusely.
During the memorial service, an end of watch call went out. The dispatcher described Simmie as "a dedicated partner of officer Arnold who served East St. Louis and the surrounding communities," before declaring Simmie was 1042 -- out of service.
Many in the audience burst into tears.
"Simmie will always be my family," Arnold said. "And I thank those who came by and cried with me. ... I wouldn't let anyone call Simmie a dog. He was my partner."
Anyone who would like to help officer Felix Arnold get a new canine should send checks to Brian Dowdy "187K-9," 511 S. 22nd St., Belleville, IL 62220.