Canton, Ohio, police officer Ryan Davis’s beloved K-9 partner, Jethro, was slain during an armed robbery two-and-a-half weeks ago. The German shepherd died protecting his human partner. The city of Canton honored the fallen hero, with hundreds coming out to mourn Jethro.
“There’s not a day that I am not constantly thinking about him,” Davis tells PEOPLE. “It’s rough.”
But Davis wants to heal. And part of that was accepting a generous offer for a new crime-fighting partner.
“I can’t even describe it,” says Davis. “Mixed emotions, bittersweet but moving forward. Everybody keeps using the word replace. There is no replacing him, it’s just continuing to move forward.”
Jethro was a special dog. He had not only been Davis’s partner, but a member of the family since he arrived at eight weeks old.
Davis knew that finding a new partner could be rough. He flew to Houston on Sunday with another K-9 handler, for emotional support.
“He was very shy and quiet the first day,” Schiller tells PEOPLE. “He was very reserved and very gracious. He was just overwhelmed.”
K9s4Cops picked out a trio of dogs for Davis to meet at their training facility. While Davis felt a connection to all three, “from the first test on he (Tuko) started to separate himself,” says Davis.
The nonprofit not only gave Davis a new dog, but solace and understanding from other officers who lost dogs in the line of duty.
There was Ted Dahlin, a deputy constable whose dog, Blek, was killed by a burglary suspect in 2009. Dahlin picked Davis up at the airport and the pair spent much of the last two-and-a-half days together. Says Davis: “It was great for both of us.”
“I can’t say enough about Kristi and the whole organization,” he continues. “They are probably the biggest-hearted people I’ll ever meet. In the last few days, complete strangers are now friends for life.”
As Tuko sat next to Davis on the plane back to Ohio, the pup, at times, wanted to leap out of his seat or run down the aisle. Davis kept a hand on his new partner to calm him. “He was highly stressed,” says Davis, “he wanted to find a comfort zone.”
Tuko himself has had a tumultuous week, arriving in Houston just six days ago from Hungary and then finding himself once again on a plane.
“I will take him home, get him comfortable, let him unwind and then start training,” Davis says. “We’ll create the bond and let him know he is in his forever home, that he’s not moving again.”