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Hundreds honor Ohio police dog killed protecting human partner

CANTON, Ohio -- Officer Ryan Davis returned to the scene of the crime, reluctantly.

Last weekend, he and his partner were investigating an alarm at a grocery store in Canton, Ohio. It was the middle of the night, and there were signs of a break-in.

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K9 Officer Jethro with his parter, Officer Ryan Davis
Canton Police Department

"We just started working our way through the grocery store," Officer Davis explained.

On the police scanner, Davis was heard describing the scene. "A roof door is completely off," he said. Then: "Shots fired! Shots fired! My partner's been shot."

Davis' partner was a German shepherd named Jethro. And he was more than just a police dog.

The Davis family got Jethro at eight weeks old. He grew up as both a family pet and a K-9 officer, every day seamlessly transitioning from pillow to police work and back again.

Until last weekend, when he charged that burglar, and took three bullets.

"I'm here because he did what he did," Davis told CBS News.

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Davis Family

He said the dog saved his life. But remarkably, Officer Davis said he wishes it was the other way around.

"I would trade places with him in a heartbeat. Absolutely, because I wouldn't have to sit here and suffer over the loss of him. He's left a hole that will never be filled. He gave his life for me."

It's hard to imagine owing such a debt, with no way to pay it back. But this week the city of Canton tried.

They filled their civic center, invited police officers from across the country, and honored Jethro on what would have been his third birthday.

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Hundreds of officers and police dogs from all over the country traveled to Canton, Ohio to honor Jethro

CBS News

As for the killer, police do have a suspect in custody. But that's of little consolation to Officer Davis. He said the only thing that can make it better is making certain his partner is never forgotten.

"The one word that comes to mind is unconditional. He was unconditionally loyal, loving, supportive ... he was a hero."

He was a hero, as is any police officer, who can be this devoted.

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  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.