PALMVIEW — Officers from across the Rio Grande Valley, despite the brisk weather, lined up Friday afternoon in front of the parks and recreation center here to honor one of their own: retired K-9 officer A’zeuz.
A’zeuz’s partner, Cpl. Cosme Muñiz III of Palmview, approached his wife, Gracie Muñiz, who was sitting in a police car parked in front of the building, holding A’zeuz’s urn.
Cosme paused, solemnly saluting the ashes of his partner of 12 years before taking the urn. And like countless times before, walked with his best friend into the building.
A Belgian malinois breed, A’zeuz was 14 years old when he died on Oct. 11. He served the Palmview Police Department for 12 years after flying from France to become Cosme’s partner in 2007. He was used for narcotic detection, tracking, suspect apprehension and officer protection.
In his time of service, A’zeuz collected many state and national recognitions, including seventh place at the 2010 National Narcotic Detector Dog Association conference, and eighth at the 2012 Texas Narcotic Officers Association Conference. His largest marijuana and cocaine seizures were 6,660 pounds and 20 kilograms, respectively.
The audience of officers and family members held a salute as Cosme and Gracie placed the urn atop an altar adorned with A’zeuz’s possessions — his badge, vest and awards — along with candles and wreaths of white flowers. A blue table runner was laid at the table’s center.
Cosme took his time placing the urn, then joined everyone else in a salute.
“He was the perfect partner, he was always there for me, as I was for him,” Cosme said, who has been on the Palmview police force for 13 years.
“The hardest and most difficult decision of my law enforcement career was the day I had to say goodbye to my partner and longtime companion.”
Gracie, who was first to offer a eulogy, spoke of how safe and proud he made her, calling herself his “adopted mom.”
“When he retired, he got to stay home with me,” Gracie said. “I never had to put a security system in my house because I had him.”
Like the way most mothers with children in the police field, Gracie was proud of A’zeuz.
“He was a four-legged officer,” she said through tears. “He was there like everyone else. He gave so much of himself to our family, to the community and to the state.”
At the end of her speech, Gracie looked at her husband and said, “Babe, I love you. Thank you for giving me A’zeuz.”
A slideshow of A’zeuz played, which further showed the contrast between his life at work and at home. In some photos, he was with Cosme in front of their police car and in front of large seizures. In others, he was seen taking a nap with Cosme on the floor, and being hugged by his “siblings.”
Alisha Peña, 27, is the daughter of Cosme, and said that A’zeuz was just like any other dog.
“He had a job, but he was also a regular dog,” she said. “He would get into work mode, and it was like a light switch.”
Alisha’s younger siblings, Melissa and Arnold agreed when she added that his favorite food were hotdogs, admitting that they would give them to him more often than they were supposed to.
Cosme also referred to A’zeuz’s dedication to his job.
“His favorite thing to do was patrol work,” he said in his eulogy. “He would be ready to work the minute he would see me put on this uniform. He would wait for me at the door barking, sitting and saying, ‘Let’s go, time to go find the bad guys.’”
He also noted that he was a perfect fit to the Muñiz family.
“He became part of my family, a big brother to my children, who were small at the time,” Cosme said. “A’zeuz knew what he had to do, as if saying, ‘I’m here to protect you all for the rest of my life.’ And protect he did.”
For the final salute, many police officers lined up with their K-9s, and one by one, walked up to A’zeuz’s altar and saluted. As his last command, Deputy Javier Solis of Hidalgo County shouted “couche,” which is French for “down.”