It was a reassuring sight.
Whenever MSU police Sgt. Maureen Ramsey would make a traffic stop, she could always look back at her vehicle and see someone watching to make sure she was safe.
He would be standing on the platform between the seats and I barely saw the silhouette of his two ears, the 13-year campus police force veteran recalled, still wearing her K-9 officer pin.
The police officer doesnt become dependent on them in regards to safety, but its like having a four-pawed guardian angel.
But for the last month, those pointed, furry ears have been noticeably absent from Ramseys patrol car. Her police dog, Buddy, was put to sleep Jan. 9 because of kidney failure and other health problems.
If I had a bag or cup of coffee - whenever he wanted something, be it petted or acknowledgment or a bite of my bagel, hed slide his nose on my shoulder and if I didnt do anything hed nudge me.
It just goes from having someone there all the time to no one. The car feels a little empty.
Buddy, a German shepherd imported from the Netherlands, joined the Department of Police and Public Safety in 1995. He specialized in explosive searches, but was also trained in tracking, handler protection and regular patrol duties.
K-9 officers go through extensive training with new police dogs and spend two days a month refreshing procedures, said MSU police Sgt. Randy Holton, who supervised the K-9 division for much of Buddys tenure. Holtons most recent police dog partner, Jacco, was put to sleep in August after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.
The police dogs are indispensable tools for the department, able to search an area in moments that could take officers hours, he said. But the dogs are also important for community relations.
I can go out and track down a criminal and go out and do a preschool program the same day, Holton said. Thats part of the requirement here - they have to be social dogs.
Ramsey was partnered with Buddy in 1999, but in that short two years the two developed a special bond. Police dogs spend nearly 24 hours a day with their human partners, working and living together.
Buddy often ended up as the playmate to Ramseys 5-year-old son. Sometimes he was a horse, other times he played the bad guy and he was often wearing a Superman cape - but he was always a willing participant, she said.
Ramseys husband, Lansing police Officer Matt Ramsey, understands the bond between a K-9 officer and dog. Hes even found himself putting out three bowls of dog food since the death of his wifes partner - one for Buddy, one for the family dog and one for his partner, Pluto.
Its like the bond between all your family members put together, said the Lansing police handler and trainer. Hes like a kid, but like a big brother, too.
Its a very strong bond. Its inseparable.
Matt Ramsey has also lost a police dog partner during the course of duty. His dog, Sabre, was shot in January of 1999 while on duty.
Its devastating at the time, he said. Part of your life is gone.
Both Ramseys acknowledge the difficulties of adjusting to life without their pawed partners. Maureen Ramsey said she even found herself getting treats for Buddy and opening the car door to let him out, even though he was gone.
Itd be easier if there were not so many reminders, she said. Youll be driving in the car and hit the brakes and a tennis ball will roll out from under the seat.
You never thought a tennis ball would cause you grief. But everywhere I look, I find a tennis ball.
But Ramsey said she finds comfort in Buddys service to the department. He spent his last days on the force searching for explosives before President Clintons January visit to campus.
He was able to perform his duties, but I could tell he was struggling, she said. As tough as he was, hed do his job and forget his pain. He finished his tour of duty and Im so proud of him for that.