Even someone who hadn’t made his acquaintance had to be impressed by the high opinion in which he was held by his employers.
“Cloud II was a well-known and respected police dog,” according to the Ontario Provincial Police news release, which credited the member of their K-9 unit with tracking down 123 fugitives. Unfortunately, the “brave and dedicated” German Shepherd was gunned down while helping corner a criminal in a cabin near Sudbury.
The police bulletin says Cloud II (no mention of Cloud I) was five years old when he became the only OPP dog in history to be killed in the line of duty. The 90-pounder was at the height of his four-year policing career. A year earlier he had been inducted into the Purina Animal Hall of Fame and stumped the panel on television’s Front Page Challenge.
Visits to local schools and public events made Cloud II somewhat of a hero in North Bay, so it was decided to bury him on the grounds of the OPP district headquarters in a ceremony attended by numerous officers, local residents, and schoolchildren.
This police reverence for a departed colleague -- albeit a four-legged one – did not seem out of order for me. I am fond of animals myself and keep the cremated ashes of a beloved cat in a place of honour in my den.
What got my attention was when the notice started talking about exhuming the dog’s remains and moving them into a special stone urn on display at the OPP Museum at general headquarters in Orillia. That’s a lot of respect to show for a departed colleague -- not to mention a lot of taxpayers' money -- and demonstrates a great deal of reverence for the dead.
I got to wondering why the 50 heavily-armed OPP officers who marched like storm troopers into Ipperwash Provincial park on the night of Sept. 6, 1995 – ten years after Cloud II was laid to rest with such ceremony in North Bay – didn’t give a second thought to longstanding First Nation claims that there were burial sites on the property -- human burial sites.
Did Kenneth Deane worry about treading on sacred ground when he fired three rounds at Dudley George, later lying that he saw his target brandishing a weapon, or was he just thinking about premier Mike Harris’ objective to “get the f….ing Indians out of the park”?
Will a dog’s final resting place be a more important shrine for new OPP recruits than the spot – now marked by a marble cairn carved by his brother Pierre – where Dudley George fell, mortally wounded by an OPP sniper’s bullet?
Let’s hope the OPP remember the importance of keeping things in perspective.
Rest in peace Dudley. Rest in Peace Cloud II.
Maurice Switzer is a citizen of the Mississaugas of Alderville First Nation. He serves as director of communications for the Union of Ontario Indians and editor of the Anishinabek News.