Merrimack K9 Pluto

Pluto, a police canine with the Merrimack Police Department, died on July 21 from cancer. This week, the department held a special service to honor the dog’s memory.

MERRIMACK — Dozens of police officers gathered Thursday to mourn K9 Pluto, a beloved comrade in blue that recently succumbed to cancer.

The Merrimack Police Department honored Pluto’s memory during a special memorial service where many tears were shed and hugs were received.

“It has been a rough couple of weeks. Words cannot describe how I feel right now, but it is nice to have the department here recognizing him,” said Pluto’s handler, Master Patrolman Stephen Wallin.

Pluto, a German Shepherd, lived with Wallin, his wife and three children.

“Stephen Wallin has been the ultimate partner to Pluto,” said Police Chief Denise Roy. “I personally witnessed Pluto in his last moments of life and he looked to Steve for comfort, and you certainly gave that to him.”

Master Patrolman Stephen Wallin

Master Patrolman Stephen Wallin of the Merrimack Police Department receives a hug during a memorial service this week for his police canine, Pluto, who died last month.

Following several veterinarian visits and tests, doctors determined that Pluto had a cancerous tumor behind his eye. He died on July 21. Pluto had been with the department since October 2018, and was only 1½ years old. While the department lost a good, loyal canine, Chaplain Steven Robert Closs said the Wallins lost a cherished family member.

“Our appreciation can never equal his giving,” Closs said of Pluto. “May the blue light shine perpetually in your memory.”

Although Pluto died while in service to the town, he faced many dangers during his brief work with the police department, according to Closs, who said the dog’s dedication and sacrifice should not go unnoticed.

Pluto previously obtained his certification through the Boston Police Department, and it was determined early on in his career that Pluto had great potential in the field, said Roy.

“He was on the path to be one of the best,” she said, explaining Pluto was set to begin specialized drug-detection training this summer. Pluto’s talent was not an accident, as he was eager to do his job and work hard because of Wallin’s guidance, said the chief.

“The Merrimack Police Department is committed to keeping the canine program,” said Roy, adding that when the time is appropriate, another police canine will be trained and handled by Wallin.