On Thursday, July 26, Cranston Police Officer, Gregg Bruno had finished his shift as a K-9 officer and did not have a clue of the surprise to come that day.
“I was sitting on my couch watching the news and my phone started to ping a few times in a row,” he said. “My first thought was something is up. I grabbed my phone and saw images before I opened it up from my friend Tom Okolowitcz from the Cranston Police Department. When I saw the pictures, I was amazed because I was just up at the site, the Police Training Office, the day before working K-9 Zeus. It was done…I couldn’t get over it.”
“I wasn’t expecting it to be done because I knew it was a busy time for the guys. I called up Tom and thanked him for putting this all of this together,” said Officer Bruno.
What was done? A memorial park at the Cranston Police Training Facility on Phenix Avenue, featuring a memorial bench for the deceased K-9 Bosco, who was loved throughout the Cranston community.
K-9 Officer Bosco served eight years with Officer Bruno under Badge #462 and was put down due to health reasons in October of 2016.
“I waited for my son to get home and immediately drove to the site because Bosco was just as important to my boys as he was me. I had to see it in person ... when I arrived I honestly couldn’t believe it was finally done. The sense of closure was immediately gratifying,” he said.
Officer Bruno knew the project was ongoing, but a group of his friends, officers and the community finished up the project without him knowing.
“Bosco’s career highlights are all the educational classes and demos I performed with him. All the safety day demos as well demos for any other event who may have contacted me. People were amazed at Bosco's capabilities,” said Bruno. “I always said he broke the stereotypical barrier of a police canine.”
The whole idea came to fruition because Bruno asked Alan Muoio for a big rock that he was going to have a plaque made for which would have said the park had been dedicated to Bosco. Muoio and Kevin Dorsey met him one day at the site to discuss the plans for the rock.
“Bosco deserves way more than just a rock with his name on it,” said Muoio.
“All involved knew the importance of this project to me and were excited to be a part of it,” said Bruno. “They went above and beyond and exceeded my expectations...all because of a loving yellow lab.”
The project had been planned for a year and a half. The plan was to get this project completed at the beginning of the landscaping season, but because of weather and scheduling conflicts the project was pushed back until the end of the season.
“Tom Okolowitcz [a friend who had made the surprise happen sooner rather than later] had sent me the pictures,” said Bruno. “I immediately called him and asked him how he pulled this off without getting caught because I spend a lot of time at our range facilities. We laughed about how he pulled it off then I told him I must see it in person. When I arrived a short while later that night it hit me…it really hit me…for me personally this brought Bosco's career to a dignified and well-deserved end.”
Bruno had many people to thank for the park’s completion.
“I would like to sincerely thank all the gentleman involved in completing the project: Colonel Michael Winquist and his administration for allowing us to build what we have envisioned a K-9 unit should be; Alan Muoio owner of Forest Hills Nurseries who had the vision and performed the initial design and construction; Justin Corso owner of Maplewood Landscaping and Nursery for installation of the pavers and mulch; Kevin Dorsey of Narragansett Improvement for supplying the granite bench and making the arrangements to have it engraved; Robert Grasso of the CPD for his unbelievable craft of designing and engraving the bench; Bob Rocchio with Arnold Lumber for the donation of the pavers; Michael Lonardo for his hard work in the early stages of this project , finally John Corso, Phil Aceto; and all the City of Cranston workers who cleared the site prior to construction,” he said.
The plans for the park from this point forward are to memorialize all past CPD K-9s by inscribing their names in the pavers. The idea is continuing that tradition with the present and all future canines as they pass for many years to come.
They are also beginning the construction of a canine agility course to ensure all K-9s are kept in top physical condition and are ready for any scenario that may present itself.
“Police K-9s throughout the country serve on the front lines in a host of capacities. Just like our officers, they are brave and courageous, risking their lives while answering the call of duty,” said Colonel Michael J. Winquist, Chief of Police, Cranston Police Department. “Our police department is fortunate to have had many dedicated police canines in its history, as well as exemplary officers who served, and are currently serving, as K-9 handlers.”
“It is only fitting that we honor the memories of those K-9s who served the Cranston Police Department so faithfully while contributing to the mission of the police department, which is to protect and serve the residents of Cranston,” said Col. Winquist.
“Bosco Memorial Park is a beautiful tribute to these K-9’s and is appropriately named after police canine ‘Bosco’ who was one of the most recognizable police canines in the city and beyond.
Winquist said that Bosco was responsible for countless seizures of drugs, firearms and money generated from trafficking, but “equally important, he made numerous appearances in our schools and at many public events, always bringing a smile to everyone’s face.”
“The support the department received from the local business community, employees of the City Highway Department and within the police department to build Bosco Memorial Park was impressive to say the least and is greatly appreciated,” Winquist continued. “I also want to publicly thank K-9 Officer Gregg Bruno for his many years of service with Bosco and for having the vision to create the K-9 memorial park. He continues to lead our K-9 Unit with K-9 Zeus.”
“All these years later I’m still seeing the impact of Bosco’s career,” said Bruno. “Whenever we do demonstrations, no matter where it is, someone always asks me about Bosco and they share their memory of him.”