ST. PAUL, Minn. -Graduation is a time, for new beginnings. On Thursday, 16 K9's became sworn police officers to protect and serve. Duke is a 14-month-old German Shepherd whose beginning as a St. Paul officer marks the start of something that will soon come to an end.
"Last first fresh start that's it," Duke's handler, St. Paul Officer Dave Longbehn said.
Officer Longbehn knows Duke's policing life will surpass what he has left on the force because Dave's time protecting St. Paul has nearly run its course.
"I gotta couple of more years here and then I'm going to hang it up," Longbehn said after the K9's graduated Thursday.
Dave's journey to Duke's side tells why.
Kody was Dave's K9 partner for five years, his second set of eyes.
Kody was with him the day Dave was called to duty to find the man who had just killed Maplewood officer Joe Bergeron.
Dave not only found that suspect but he fought with him nearly to Dave's death.
Dave won that fight, and won another day, to serve.
But trouble would find Dave and Kody again this past February when they were called to arrest a dangerous sex offender at a St. Paul house.
Kody was the front line when the suspect drew a knife and went for Dave.
"That knife was meant for one of us and I know Kody died a hero," Dave recalled sadly of the day Kody died in the line of duty.
So a history like that begs the question of why Dave arrived on a K9 training field to graduate another partner and again tempt fate one more time?
Because Dave is ready to begin, his very last, ending.
"Putting on this uniform and being a St. Paul cop, like I said, it doesn't get any cooler than that."