It had many of the trappings of a departmental burial for a fallen comrade: a police honor guard, officers with black tape affixed to their badges, and a eulogy that commemorated the bravery and devotion to duty of the deceased.
Were it not for the dog biscuit attached to the spray of flowers atop the casket, the funeral today at a cemetery in the rolling farm country of this Anne Arundel County community could have been mistaken for a tribute to a slain police officer.
In a sense, it was -- at least to the several dozen Prince George's County policemen who came here to honor a 3 1/2-year-old German shepherd named Rebel, who early Friday became the first member of the department's K-9 unit to die in the line of duty.
Rebel was killed by a knife-wielding intruder who police said had broken into a junior high school in Mount Rainier. The man, 18-year-old Michael Presley Sluby of Washington, was shot and killed by Officer Joseph Wing when Sluby allegedly threatened the officer with a knife.
Wing, who is on administrative leave pending a departmental investigation of the incident, spoke movingly of his slain partner today.
"Every time a dog goes into a building from now on, this will be remembered," said Wing in a brief graveside tribute to Rebel, who was buried along with a blue duffel containing his leash and harness. Wing's wife, Norma Capote, cried quietly by his side.
Wing, 34, a 12-year veteran on the county police force, had worked with Rebel for 2 1/2 years. "You go through a rite of passage," he said after the funeral. "You learn the job together, and he's part of the family. That's why it is hitting the family so hard."
Rebel was buried alongside about 225 other dogs, cats and other animals interred at the Lakemont Pet Cemetery. The cemetery occupies one small corner of a more traditional human burial ground and is identified by a large marble marker reading: "If Christ had had a little pet, it would have followed him to the cross."
"That's true," murmured one person today as the bronze-colored plastic coffin containing Rebel's remains was carried by four county police officers from a station wagon to the gravesite.
The special bonds that develop between humans and their pets are particularly strong among the 15 officers and dogs of the K-9 unit who together share the dangers of police work, said county police Col. Elmer Tippett.
"It's just like a partner," said Tippett. "The canine is their partner 12 hours a day, but this partner you take home with you. He becomes an integral part of the family."
"Rebel gave the ultimate sacrifice for me," added Wing as he accepted the condolences of friends and colleagues following the service. "There aren't many men who would do that."