Willy, a yellow Labrador Retriever, was a beloved member of the Bayonne Police Department. He was joyful, hardworking and always eager to serve. Willy was Bayonne Police Officer Gene Urbanowicz’s only partner for eight years.
On April 22, Willy passed away at the age of 11. He was Bayonne’s first police dog, sworn in on Feb. 1, 2005. The Labrador had a memorable career and retired on July 31, 2013 with many accolades.
Urbanowicz was charged with traveling to Florida to pick up Willy and train with him in bomb-detection at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. The pair immediately forged a bond that would strengthen over the next decade.
They were called on check for explosives dozens of times, both in Bayonne and throughout the New York metropolitan area. The partners also assisted the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Park Police, U.S. Coast Guard, Hudson County Sheriff’s Office, and Jersey City Police Department.
Urbanowicz and Willy went through a lot. They had many terrifying moments together, but thankfully they never found a bomb.
“One of the mantras of canine work is the slogan ‘trust your dog,’” Urbanowicz said. “That’s all you really have to go on. You’re counting on him recognizing something wrong and you noticing if he’s not acting right.”
During the Barclays golf tournament at the Liberty National course in Jersey City in 2009, Urbanowicz and Willy were on duty. When the Bayonne Golf Club opened and President Bill Clinton visited, the cop and the Labrador were once again called into service.
“We had to check all the equipment that the media was using,” Urbanowicz said. “That was our job there. Checking all the cameras, camera cases, bags. That was all our responsibility.”
Willy received many other accolades, including a citation from the New Jersey General Assembly in 2010, and many local ones. Willy’s legacy will not only include his many assignments but also his work ethic, demeanor, and the happiness he brought to the lives of many.
“He was a great dog; no problems, he got along with kids, and he was always eager to go to work,” Urbanowicz said. “I can’t count all the times in schools the kids would go nuts for him.”
Urbanowicz has since matched with another police dog, Rocco, a drug-patrol partner.
He said he will never forget Willy. Whether it was sniffing for explosives, making kids laugh, or chasing empty water bottles thrown for fun, Willy will always be remembered.
“He was just an asset to the department; everyone looked forward to seeing him,” Urbanowicz said. “He put a smile on the officers’ faces. He just had an impact on the department. Every day we miss him.”
Source: Hudson Reporter