K9 police officers hold vigil for Waterford Township officer injured on job

Eastpointe K9 officer recalls own near-death experience as hundreds gather for officer Annette Miller's vigil

Author: Marc Santia, Local 4 Defenders
Published On: Jun 06 2012 10:53:44 PM EDT   Updated On: Jun 06 2012 10:59:54 PM EDT
ROYAL OAK, Mich. -

Gathered outside Royal Oak's Beaumont Hospital, dozens of K9s and their handlers offered prayer and support for Waterford Township police officer Annette Miller.

Miller, 46, was critically injured May 23 when she attempted to stop a speeding motorcyclist. Her K9 partner, Tondo, also was injured in the crash.

Miller's condition was upgraded Wednesday from serious to fair. She is still recovering at Beaumont Hospital.

Eastpointe police officer Randy Diegel was there to capture the vigil on camera.

"Just something I'll save. A cool memory," he said. "Just astounded. I shook my head and just thought the support is awesome because there's a lot of guys there that don't even know her, but they have that in common, you work a dog on the street."

Diegel and his partner, 8-year-old German Shepherd, Tico, know what it's like. A year ago, there was a vigil for him.

"One of them went down, but look at the show of support that they got," he said. "And it's not just the police community it's the canine community and there's a special bond."

Eastpointe K9 officer was struck by car

Diegel was working a traffic stop when he was hit by another car. The husband and father flirted with death as he spent days at a hospital. Tico also was injured, but he was in much better shape than his human partner.

As Diegel recovered, he was told his canine brothers and sisters, with their K9s, showed up outside the hospital for a vigil, just like the one Diegel was part of for Miller.

"You can talk about it and try to put it into words, but you really can't explain it. It's something you feel," he said.

Considered a walking miracle, Diegel has not only survived but thrived since the incident. A year after his near-deadly crash, he and Tico are back on the job stopping criminals, finding drugs and guns.

Diegel credits much of his recovery to his family and his extended family including canine officers and their partners with paws.

Officer believes K9s understand emotions

Diegel said Tico could sense the gravity of what was happening outside Miller's hospital window.

"I'm no dog whisperer or a dog psychologist but they call (the leash) or lead an extension of you. It goes from my hand down to (Tico) and it runs ... my emotions go down," Diegel said.

He said Tico's whimpering is the dog's way of acknowledging support for others in this tight-knit community.

"I looked around and thought we're all here for a reason and I really think the emotions run down the lead into the dog, and they're all there," he said.

They were joined by more than 100 officers and their dogs from across Metro Detroit, the country and even Canada.

"It's more than just a dog. There is a bond and a friendship not only between a handler and a dog, but between your fellow handlers, and it lasts a lifetime," Diegel said.

Diegel said the vigil was an outward expression of an internal feeling shared by the men, women and dogs within the exclusive community.

"For the people that maybe don't have a good attitude toward police or canines, I hope they see that too and they can say, 'Oh boy, man, look at that. One of them goes down, look how many come to help. That's what it's all about."