The Leesville Police Department laid to rest one of its finest Tuesday in a solemn ceremony near the Department’s shooting range and training ground.
A bitter, sleet-laden wind and a mournful rendition of “Taps” marked the passing of Chip, the Department’s first K-9, and a trailblazer as far as K-9 law enforcement in this area is concerned, according to Deputy Chief of Police Tom Scott in his eulogy of the dog.
“Chip was the  first, folks,” Scott told those gathered to pay their final respects. “Here’s where the legacy began. This was the trailblazer.”
Chip joined the Leesville Police Department in January 1997, Scott said, and served the Leesville and Vernon Parish communities for eight years, for which he received a Meritorious Service Award.
The dog assisted in removing thousands of dollars of illegal narcotics from the streets of central Louisiana, Scott said. In addition, the K-9 was called to assist in similar operations in Missouri, Arkansas and Mississippi. Chip’s work led to the arrest of many felons and the seizure of about $50,000 in currency.
Chip, a Belgian Malinois, passed away on December 15 after a long struggle with illness, Scott said.
“He was an intricate part of our workings with other agencies,” Scott added. “He’s one of us.”
Chip’s only handler and owner, Sylvester Denmond, with whom Chip lived, said goodbye to not only his co-worker, but his buddy Tuesday.
The two began their service with the Leesville Police Department within a year of one another, after Denmond, following his dream, purchased Chip from a former law enforcement officer who’d had prior K-9 military training.
Then, with the blessing of Leesville Chief of Police Bobby Hickman, Denmond and Chip attended a 12-week K-9 school where they learned the basics of obedience, narcotics detection, felony apprehension, tracking and article recovery.
From there, Denmond and Chip’s service to the Department blossomed, with the duo making trips out of state to assist in highway interdiction or visiting schools for demonstrations. Chip also assisted on cases for the Vernon Parish Narcotics Task Force, the New Llano Police Department the Louisiana State Police and the Sabine Parish Sheriff’s Office, Denmond said.
“For me, he broke the ground and allowed me to pursue my career as a K-9 handler in law enforcement,” Denmond said, recalling a trip to Missouri where the two assisted in highway interdiction. There, Chip alerted on the rear of a vehicle where officers later found $20,000 worth of marijuana.
“He liked to go to work,” Demond said of Chip, recalling how the dog would become immediately alert at the sound of the velcro latch on his master’s gun or vest and then pace the house until it was time to go.
And if Demond released Chip into a parking lot, he’d find a Crown Victoria with an open door, unlatch it and then jump inside, ready to go. 
A tennis ball was Chip’s simple reward for all that hard work, Denmond said.
Aside from their professional relationship, the two were also friends, Denmond said.
 “I talked to him just like I talk to a person,” he said. “You have to be just as loyal to the K-9 as the K-9 is to you.” 
Even down to the end, Chip wanted to go to work, Denmond said, remembering the dog’s last moments.
“If he could by anyway go to work, he would do it,” the officer said.
Chip’s contribution to the area did not go unnoticed, said Denmond, who noted that many stepped forward to offer their support after Chip passed away, including Denmond’s loved ones, fellow officers and the community.
Baggs Floors, Fence and Monuments donated the monument for Chips grave, and the Beauregard Sheriff’s Office donated the wood which Vernon Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Noel Yates used to construct the fallen K-9’s casket.