WOODBURY, N.J. (CBS) — As a Woodbury City police officer, Will Sheehan understands the value of partnership.
Now, as the city’s newest and only K-9 handler in years, he has a partner of a different kind — a dog named Evo.
Over the summer, Sheehan’s peers at the Atlantic County John “Sonny” Burke Police K-9 Academy ranked him the top recruit, a win made more impressive considering that at the time, he was grappling with incredible loss.
“[He] went through chemo, radiation, different medical trials, and nothing seemed to work,” said Officer Will Sheehan.
His nephew, 4-year-old Easton Windhurst, passed away in July after battling anaplastic endymoma, a tumor on his spine.
“He just loved being around police and that’s what he ultimately wanted to do,” Sheehan said.
So, in his memory came a special donation: a new police puppy who, at the suggestion of the academy’s director, Joe Nick, would bear the boy’s name.
“Getting this dog and naming him Easton just helped my family in the grieving process,” Sheehan said.
Easton is just 8 months old but is expected to one day enter the academy to become a police K-9.
But that’s not the only gift the department received this holiday season, said Woodbury City Police Chief Tom Ryan.
“We were just looking for a small monetary donation and they said, ‘How about we give you a car?’” said Ryan.
Performance Dodge donated a fully outfitted K-9 police car, which includes special features, like an alarm that sounds if the temperature inside gets too hot.
“You see there’s a need for help and you want to be involved if you can,” said general manager Trent Huston.
For Sheehan, it’s a constant reminder of his littlest partner who, in a special way, will always be by his side.
“It’s almost like he can live his own life as a police officer now just in K-9 form,” said Sheehan.