ATLANTIC CITY — For the past three years, when the community needed extra protection, Boomer, an explosives detection dog with the Police Department, always seemed to be there.
The 10-year-old black Labrador, who was with the department for almost four years, had to be euthanized last week after a tumor was diagnosed in his stomach, near his heart, Deputy Chief William Mazur said.
Boomer died Tuesday.
But Boomer and his handler, 23-year veteran Officer Jim Miltenberger, made for the most active explosive-detection duo the department has ever had, Mazur said.
“Boomer had a very good disposition,” Mazur said. “They go through these situations and these scenarios where potentially it could be extremely dangerous.”
In the first eight months of 2016, Boomer conducted almost 700 searches with his handler — and that wasn’t just in Atlantic City. As part of the New Jersey Render Safe task force, Boomer and his handler responded to events and suspicious devices outside the city, too.
Boomer was on duty at the 2014 Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium, for example. He was at every Miss America pageant the city has hosted in the past few years.
Boomer also searched every casino in the resort town and was present at every beach concert the city has held, Mazur said.
In 2015, the K9 responded to almost double the number of searches he did in 2016, Mazur said.
“These animals are expected to do incredible things,” Mazur said.
Having to put Boomer to sleep was unexpected and a tremendous loss for Miltenberger, Mazur said.
Miltenberger was in a car crash in August that left him with a serious neck injury and unable to work since then. Boomer was in the car at the time of the crash but appeared to be uninjured.
Since then, Boomer had remained by Miltenberger’s side. After the tumor’s diagnosis, though, it quickly advanced to the point where Boomer was not eating and had no energy.
His last days were spent with the officer with whom he was bonded, Mazur said.
“People will never know the bond that they shared,” he said.
Two K-9 units are on each shift with city police: a patrol dog and an explosives-detection dog. The department also is part of the state task force, which gives them access to more police dogs if needed.
Boomer had a “very high drive” for a police dog, meaning he was eager to work and had an innate ability to do it well.
“Boomer was at the top of the list,” Mazur said.