34-year-old Buffalo Police Officer Craig Lehner is survived by his mother and three sisters, but also by his partner: K-9 Shield. The department says the two were an "inseparable team" and formed a close bond while working together in the K-9 Unit.
Lehner joined the unit about a year ago and has worked with Shield on a daily basis ever since. The two were so close, he brought K-9 Shield with him to Broderick Park for the training exercise on Friday with the Underwater Rescue and Recovery Team.
"That first, few, horrible hours he did seem like he was searching for Craig," Lt Sal Losi, commander of the department's K-9 Unit, said Wednesday. "We've been trying to keep him around familiar people, familiar surroundings to help him with the stress of the separation."
The department now needs to find a new handler for Shield. It says the hard work Lehner put in to train and work with Shield will make that transition easier. But, if no suitable partner can be found for Shield, he will be adopted.
But, even though Shield will eventually find a new partner. He will never shed Officer Lehner's legacy to serve the City of Buffalo, protect its people and stand for all that is good.
"All the good qualities of Craig Lehner are the good qualities we see in this dog," Lt Losi said. "Loyalty. Professionalism. Dedication. We even see a quirky sense of humor."