K-9s, service animals can share owners’ final resting place

By Megan Powell
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS — An officer and his K-9 will finally be allowed to share a final resting place.

When Michigan City Police Officer Rob Grant’s family made final arrangements for his funeral last year, the family wanted to place the ashes of his K-9, Henry, on his grave. Grant’s wife, Lindsay, thought the 125 pound German Shepard and her late husband belonged together.

But the family’s wish was not possible.

“As we walked through the cemetery, we found out that there was a law that existed that you couldn’t put an animal in a cemetery and we thought ‘how tragic this was,’” said Officer Doug Samuelson.

So Samuelson held on to Henry’s remains.

“I’ve had his ashes with me ever since and for most of the time, he rode in the squad car with me, because I don’t know where to put Henry,” said Samuelson.

But now with the help of House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, Grant and his beloved German Shepherd will be reunited. Pelath worked with those close to Grant to author and pass a bill that would allow deceased law enforcement and service animals to be with their owner forever.

“I’m truly excited. When I get with Lindsey here, hopefully the first of July, we are going to have a little ceremony and put Henry with Robbie because they deserve to be together,” said Samuelson.

From the start, Samuelson said, Grant and Henry had a connection.

Samuelson was the coordinator for Michigan City’s K-9 unit, when Grant met Henry at Midwest K9 Training Inc. in Lakeville.

The training facility had Henry out in the yard playing. As soon as Henry saw Grant, he ran directly to him.

In fact, Henry was so high-energy that the trainers hesitated to let the K-9 go home with Grant.

“But immediately, after they got together and started their bond, there was no separation ever and I think that’s what makes this law so cool—that we can put them both together,” said Samuelson.

In addition to law enforcement animals, the law extends to service animals, including guide animals, psychiatric service animals and mobility animals. An owner can be reunited with an animal that died before, after or simultaneously. In the case of Grant, who committed suicide while under investigation, Henry died shortly after.

Starting on July 1, the cremated remains of a law enforcement or service animal can be scattered or placed on the burial plot. They can also be interred on top of the plot.

Pelath said legislators wanted to bring peace and comfort to these grieving families.

“People were absolutely sympathetic and wanted to move it through the legislative process without changes,” said Pelath.

For Samuelson, the law eternally connects Grant and Henry.

“They were partners and they’ll always will be partners now,” said Samuelson.

Megan Powell is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.