ELKTON — Sr. Ofc. Matthew Nussle of the Elkton Police Department lost his partner, K9 Rommel, in August 2018.
That’s when the specially-trained scent dog retired due to his advanced age. Rommel and Nussle had worked the previous eight years together confiscating illegal drugs and guns, tracking down suspects and making scores of arrests in Elkton and throughout Cecil County.
After his retirement, Rommel continued to live with Nussle and his family — exclusively as a pet.
On Tuesday, nearly three years later, Nussle lost his best friend.
On the advice of veterinarians involved in Rommel’s treatment, Nussle and his family elected to euthanize the beloved German Shepherd, who had been battling an increasingly worsening medical condition that caused pain and the loss of muscle use. Rommel would have turned 12 years old on August 8.
News of the sad development prompted numerous members of the regional law enforcement community to come together to show their support for their brother in blue, as well as for his family, and to honor the retired police K9 on his passing day.
Standing at rigid attention in two rows outside the entrance of a Newark, Del. veterinarian clinic, flanking officers saluted as Nussle and his family walked a leashed Rommel into the animal hospital, where, a short time later, veterinarians humanely ended the dog’s life.
Earlier that day, officers created a convoy with their marked and unmarked patrol vehicles to escort Rommel on his last ride. After Nussle had taken Rommel to EPD’s headquarters on Railroad Avenue, so his comrades could say one last goodbye to the dog, that motorcade — marked by flashing emergency lights — escorted the family and Rommel to the veterinarian’s office.
“That was emotionally overwhelming for me and my family. The number of people who came out to honor Rommel was, like I said, overwhelming. We were very touched by such an outpouring of love and support,” Nussle told the Cecil Whig on Thursday.
In addition to EPD and other police departments in Cecil County, the list of law enforcement agencies that showed their support on Tuesday included Maryland State Police, Delaware State Police, Baltimore County Police Department, New Castle (Del.) County Police Department, Havre de Grace Police Department and Newark (Del.) Police Department.
“Most of those agencies have K9 handlers. The K9 handlers were there, and they had their dogs with them, too,” said Nussle, a 17-year EPD veteran, referring to the turnout on Tuesday.
CCSO, EPD and the Cecil County State’s Attorney’s Office are among the departments that posted heartfelt messages regarding Rommel’s passing on their Facebook pages, along with videos and/or, photos of Rommel, the procession and the receiving lines of saluting law enforcement officers in front of the veterinarian’s office.
“Please join Sheriff Scott Adams and the men and women of the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office in sending our deepest condolences to Elkton Police Officer Matt Nussle on the loss of his retired partner K9 Rommel . . . Officer Nussle and Rommel helped make hundreds of arrests over their time together, from fleeing felons to drug dealers thinking they could outwit Rommel’s nose,” reads a portion of the message posted on CCSO’s page.
In that message, the agency reports that “Rommel and Officer Nussle were also instrumental in assisting” CCSO in reestablishing its K9 Unit several years ago. The agency now has three deputies who are trained handlers of their specially-trained scent dogs.
It also describes Rommel and Nussle as “two of the best ambassadors” that law enforcement could have had in regard to educating the public about the capabilities of specially-trained scent dogs through “countless” demonstrations that Rommel and Nussle did at schools and during annual events, including the Cecil County Fair and National Night Out.
Nussle has been partnering with K9 Mauser, a Belgian Malinois/German shepherd mix that also is a specially-trained scent dog, since Rommel retired in 2018.