As the story goes, there were a few town skeptics when a black-faced German shepherd named Enzo joined the South Congaree Police Department eight years ago.
The department had paid $8,000 for the drug-sniffing dog born and raised in Holland, and there were a few who wondered if that money could be put to better use in fighting the community’s crime.
But Monday, as officers and townspeople came out to pay their respects to Enzo, who died of cancer Jan. 31, it turned out that was a small price to pay for a dog who was loved not only as a crime-fighter but as a community ambassador.
“I saw Enzo as more than just a K-9,” said the Rev. Gene Henderson, pastor of Ebenezer Pentecostal Holiness Church and the police department’s chaplain. “I saw him as a guardian of this community, as watchman over our families.”
There was no question Enzo did his duty.
South Congaree Police Chief Jason Amodio estimated the 9-year-old German shepherd, who partnered first with Joshua Shumpert and then with Roger Singleton, took about $100,000 worth of illegal drugs off the streets and nabbed a few bad guys along the way.
But he also wormed his way into the community’s heart with his friendliness and his eager approach to demonstrating his drug-sniffing prowess. Singleton, who nursed Enzo in the last months of his life with a special diet, has received at least 100 calls and letters of condolence.
Daniel Clark and his mother, Toni Clark, were among more than 75 townspeople who came to Enzo’s memorial service at Ebenezer, recalling the times Enzo would show off his talents to schoolchildren.
“Every time he’d see me, he would run to me,” Daniel said. For his ninth birthday Jan. 21, Daniel made a stuffed dog at Build-a-Bear that looked a lot like Enzo. Monday, Daniel gave the toy to Singleton to help the family cope with his loss.
He was “an extraordinary, extraordinary dog, an extraordinary partner, an extraordinary friend,” said Amodio, who heads a department of six full-time officers and three reserve officers in the town of just over 2,000 residents. “He was just so smart. What was unique about him, he could read people’s body language.”
Shumpert said when he first partnered with Enzo he was told by other K-9 handlers to keep his work with the dog strictly business, to refrain from turning him into a family pet.
But Enzo carved out his own niche with his winning personality and soon the department realized Enzo was much more than a dog whose job was to sniff out marijuana or other illegal substances. “Over the years, he became more what we wanted,” Shumpert said.
South Congaree Mayor Jerry McCormick recalled how Enzo made himself at home in city hall, snuggling in on a favorite couch when he wasn’t working and proving, he chuckled, a model of a town employee.
“He proved his worth,” McCormick said. “Not once did he ask for a day off, not once did he ask for a pay raise.”
Henderson said he hoped Enzo’s life “inspires us to be enthusiastic about what we do and how we serve others.”
South Congaree is accepting memorials on behalf of Enzo in hopes of raising enough funds to buy a second K-9, Amodio said. But Enzo, who will be remembered with a marker at the police department, won’t be forgotten.
His successor, said Amodio, “will have big ol’ paws to fill.”