Young mourner

Tripten Martin, 8, center, begins to sob while attending the memorial for Rex, the Williams Bay police dog, and was quickly consoled by Lt. Justin Timm, left, who was Rex’s handler, and by Jill Martin, Tripten’s mother. (Photo by Chris Schultz/Regional News)

Tripten Martin, 8, began to sob while viewing the memorial to Rex, the Williams Bay police dog, and he was quickly consoled by Lt. Justin Timm, Officer Mark Erickson and Jill Martin, Tripten’s mother. (Photo by Chris Schultz/Regional News)

WILLIAMS BAY — A memorial for Rex the police dog at village hall drew more than 50 visitors Jan. 22, despite bad weather outside.

It was a time for some tears and lots of remembrances of Rex, who died unexpectedly Jan. 11 at five years old, after less than a year with the police department.

Police Chief Laura Washer joined others at the memorial service in giving Rex a final salute.

“It’s a void in the hearts of the department and the community,” Washer said. “He was here only a short time, but he made quite an impact.”

Tears were shed by Trypten Martin, 8, son of Jill Martin. The youngster sobbed as he looked at the memorials to Rex.

Jill Martin said her son met Rex when the K-9 visited Williams Bay Elementary School.

Rex, a German shepherd, who was sometimes called by his nickname Reximus, was born in Holland on Dec. 7, 2013.

On Jan. 11, Rex was taken in for emergency surgery. Veterinarians attempted surgery for a ruptured mass near his spleen, which was causing internal bleeding. Sadly, the operation was not successful.

Police Lt. Justin Timm, who was Rex’s handler, recalled driving Rex to the veterinarian in hopes of saving the dog’s life.

“I really didn’t have time to say good-bye,” Timm said.

Although a trained police dog and all business when on duty, Rex was also a part of the Timm family. Timm’s wife, Megan, and their children, Declan, 3, and Delta, 11 months, were present at the memorial service, along with Timm’s parents, Constance and Scott Timm of Cedarburg.

The memorial was simple. Three tables and a podium were set up to display two large tapestries of Rex, one donated by police Capt. Chris Douglas and the other by Pet Memorial Services of Madison.

Also on the tables were Rex’s preserved paw print, his nose print in ink, and the flag that draped Rex on his final ride from the veterinarian to the Williams Bay Police Department.

A memorial container with Rex’s ashes was in the place of honor in the center of the head table. Above it, a photo of Rex flanked by two bouquets of flowers.

A screen set to the side showed slides of Rex, a brief biography and the K-9 police dog’s prayer.

“This was beautiful”, said Mary Zirngibl of Williams Bay. ”It was so nice they did this.”

She said the loss of a pet can be devastating.

“You miss them,” she said. “They’re part of the family.”

Rex and Lt. Timm met in Alaska, where Timm was a member of the Nome Police Department before moving to Wisconsin.

On display at the memorial service was a a letter of commendation addressed to Timm from Walt Monegan, commissioner of public safety for the state of Alaska.

“You and K-9 Rex have proven to be invaluable and integral members of Nome WAANT,” the letter stated. It also credited Rex and Timm with being involved in “the furtherance of numerous drug investigations.”

Shortly after Timm was hired by the Williams Bay Police Department, the lieutenant offered the services of his friend and partner, Rex.

The village board brought Rex on the department in June 2018.

Timm said that Rex was involved in just one investigation in the six months he served. But Rex also proved to be adept at public relations, making several visits to the library, the school and Lions Field House, where he turned out to be a hit with the kids.

More than just a handler, Timm was also Rex’s owner, and Timm’s home was Rex’s home.

Some of the memories of Rex at the memorial were humorous.

“He slept on my bed,” Timm said. “In fact, he got most of my bed.”

Also among those who also showed up were Village President Bill Duncan; Don Robison, Williams Bay municipal judge and his family; and Village Trustee Greg Trush.

Timm said the memorial service was organized by Washer, Village Treasurer Lori Peternell, police Administrative Assistant Chrissy Knoch and Village Administrator Jim Weiss.

“They handled it very well,” Timm said. “Everybody in this building has been amazing.”

While the village was saddened by the loss of its K-9 officer, it also means there is a void in the department.

What happens next with Williams Bay’s police dog program?

“We’ll have some discussion at some point, but not right now,” Timm said.

Chris Schultz has been a reporter for more than 40 years. He has been with the Lake Geneva Regional since 2010. He covers the Lake Geneva City Council and the Lake Geneva area schools.