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Department mourns K-9's death

LAWRENCEVILLE - Retired police K-9 "Rusty," a golden Labrador retriever, graduated from living like a vagabond in Kansas to conducting bomb sweeps for dignitaries like Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice.

His was an illustrious career cut short by failing health, but Gwinnett police say his impact is still felt.

Rusty's advancing age and decrepitude forced officials to euthanize the esteemed explosive detection canine Monday. Purchased for police by Gwinnett Public Schools in 1999, Rusty served six years as a "bomb dog," a tenure that included sweeps for the Secret Service, police said.

But it's ordinary folk who may remember the amiable pooch most fondly.

"Rusty was a favorite of many school children that he conducted demonstrations for," said Gwinnett police spokesman Cpl. David Schiralli.

Rusty's rags-to-riches career began when he was found wandering near a Kansas town northwest of Wichita. Trained at Southern Police Canine in North Carolina, Rusty was handled his entire career by officer Danny Bayreuther, with whom he lived as a family pet the last four years, Schiralli said.

Bayreuther no longer works for the department and could not be reached for comment Tuesday. The dog's exact age is unknown, Schiralli said.

A funeral for Rusty is planned today at Oak Rest Pet Gardens in Bethlehem. Schiralli said Rusty will be buried alongside fellow police service dogs in the Garden of Honor.