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Police mourn death of canine companion

POSTED: June 27, 2008 5:01 a.m.
For The Times/

Gainesville police Officer Angel Vargas with his partner "Argus." Argus died on May 31 after a battle with congestive heart failure. He was the Gainesville Police Department's oldest police dog.

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A Gainesville police officer is mourning the loss of his five-year partner.

The city police department’s oldest police dog, Argus, who was Officer Angel Vargas’ partner, died last month after a brief battle with congestive heart failure.

Argus was put to sleep on May 31, but the police department released the news of his death Monday.

In his five years of service, Argus missed only one day of work, because of a strained muscle, Vargas said.

Together, Argus and Vargas conducted 400 controlled substance searches and were responsible for more than $250,000 in drug and property seizures, according to a news release.

The two traveled together to New Mexico and The Netherlands training and showing others Argus’ work abilities.

"There was a lot of people that knew him; a lot of our friends and a lot of people I met through him," Vargas said.

The department waited nearly a month to release news of Argus’ death until Vargas, who said he spent nearly every day in five years with the dog, was comfortable talking about it.

"We spent a lot of time together," Vargas said. "He was with me all the time."

On Monday, Vargas said deciding to euthanize Argus was one of the most difficult experiences of his 11 years in law enforcement.

"In 11 years, by far the hardest thing was to make the decision that my partner that’s been with me every day that he would no longer be with me," Vargas said

In the days before Argus’ death, Vargas said he noticed small changes: Argus was not eating as much but appeared to be gaining weight. Then, when Argus was chasing a suspect, Vargas knew something was wrong when his partner became tired almost instantly.

"That’s just not like him. He’s go-go-go all the time," Vargas said.

A few days later, Dr. Jane White at the Murrayville Veterinary Clinic diagnosed Argus with heart disease, and within two weeks, Vargas was without a partner.

The loss has been difficult for Vargas and his family members, who also shared their home with Argus.

"They’re involved in everything that we do, and they miss him," Vargas said. "The little ones, they don’t quite understand, and they still ask for him."

But Vargas said he is thankful for the staff at the Murrayville Veterinary Clinic, the staff at North Georgia Pet Cremations and Memorial Park Funeral home for donating their services.

"We’re very gracious on everything and for them getting me through this whole process very easily," Vargas said.

"You couldn’t ask for anything more. It’s hard to express how grateful you are for that."

Today, Argus’ ashes are in two separate urns donated by Memorial Park Funeral Home: one in the police department where he worked and the other in Vargas’ home, where Argus lived.

The police department will announce plans for Argus’ memorial service when they are final, according to a news release.


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