Yesterday I attended a funeral that was the most remarkable, moving, emotional tribute to a most remarkable man.
Police Officer, Mike McLaughlin was a member of the Foster City Police Department for 21 years. He made an impact on many lives, human and canine. Mike was our K-9 officer and his partner was Franz, a beautiful black German Shepherd.
With my fellow councilmember, Linda Koelling, we drove to Fremont to show our support but were not prepared for what we saw when we drove up to the church……..lined up around the church were 84 German Shepherds and their handlers……it was an amazing sight. Even more amazing was that each came into the church by twos with their handlers past the pews to the coffin, paused and went to stand in the aisles. As the officers passed I tried to see their arm patches……in part represented were Emeryville, Palo Alto, Capitola, San Mateo, State Parks, Fremont, many from Southern California (probably 60 cities represented)…..it was hard to read them through my tears. Mike trained dogs, traveled to Germany to buy the dogs and competed all over the state and nation and even internationally with his dogs, winning countless awards.
As any animal lover will attest, the bond between animal and owner is intense but can you imagine the trust between Mike and Franz…..both of their lives were entrusted to each other. When Franz approached the open casket he jumped up so his paws were carefully on the edge and his wet kisses bid his partner goodbye.
This was Mike’s fifth canine partner and from all the remembrances spoken at Mike’s funeral, Franz and Mike kept the legends alive. Mike’s co-worker, gave an emotional account of the nine years they spent as fellow officers and the commitment they made to each other on those long twelve hour night shifts to “be there” for each other’s families if something happened to them. That commitment is solid to Mike’s wife and three children.
Another beautiful memory for me was watching our police officers come down the aisle to their seats, so proud but in mourning for one of their brothers….one of their own. Our police chief, Craig Courtin, gave a snapshot and his memories of the 21 years of life’s experiences shared with his fellow police officer with eloquence and grace. Craig told many stories about the bravery and lives saved by Mike……one in particular was when he arrested three youths at 4 a.m. a few years ago driving a car stolen in Salt Lake City. The comment from the driver was……”we drove 1,000 miles in this car and we were in Foster City for only 4 minutes and got picked up”. Mike’s unexpected death does remind us that even in a relatively short 48 years you can make a difference in this world and he was able to leave a legacy that will never be forgotten.
Of course the coordination of a service like this one took incredible dedication and tireless work by captains Jon Froomin and Matt Martell to honor their friend. Valuable assistance from Officer Dave Orlando and Corporal Noel MacDougall plus Mike’s fellow officers volunteered in a variety of ways. The City of Fremont was represented by not only their police department but their fire department had 8 rigs out to make sure the motorcade moved smoothly through their city and the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department added their unlimited support as well. Each dog rode in their own police car so the motorcade had over 100 cars with lights flashing for the duration of the drive to the cemetery.
Upon returning to Foster City I saw a San Mateo Police car…..found out later they generously sent us five officers. It is protocol for other jurisdictions to cover for each other in these instances but they went above and beyond. Thank you to Susan Manheimer and San Mateo for protecting us well.
I am so proud to be associated in any way with the City of Foster City.
There is more information and a picture of Mike and Franz on our City website under our police department.
Please feel free to contact me regarding this or any other Foster City issue at firstname.lastname@example.org.
January 27, 2010
A Tribute Not To Be Forgotten