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Trailblazing K9 remembered during memorial at Reveille Peak Ranch

Texas DPS Honor Guard Trooper Josh Mabry (left) and Lt. Virgil Verduzco

Texas DPS Honor Guard Trooper Josh Mabry (left) and Lt. Virgil Verduzco fold the Texas flag in memory of K9 Apolo during a March 7 ceremony at Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnet County. Photo by Martelle Luedecke/Luedecke Photography

Friends and colleagues of Apolo, the first K9 to serve with the Texas Rangers Special Operations Group, gathered Monday, March 7, at Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnet to honor him.

“I know, for a lot of us, Apolo was more than just a K9. He was a good teammate,” said Major Jorge Ortega of the Special Operations Group. 

Apolo died Jan. 29, 2022, after a battle with cancer. He was born in 2012 and joined the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Special Operations Group in February 2014. He served the people of Texas until his death.

“He was a trailblazer,” said Chance Collins, chief of the Texas Rangers. “What an honor to be the first (K9) on this team.”

When Apolo joined the group, he was teamed with Staff Sgt. Dennis Miller. He was classified as an explosives-detection dog. Collins recalled that part of Apolo and Miller’s training included unusual transportation methods.

During a capabilities demonstration for DPS directors, Miller and Apolo arrived on scene suspended below a helicopter or, as Collins described it, “dangling” below the aircraft that was, at one point, as high as 1,200 feet above the ground.”

Staff sergeants Dennis Miller (left) and Isaac Jimenez
Staff sergeants Dennis Miller (left) and Isaac Jimenez worked alongside Texas DPS K9 Apolo as part of the Texas Rangers Special Operations Group. Apolo served Texans from February 2014 until his death on Jan. 29, 2022. Photo by Martelle Luedecke/Luedecke Photography

The Texas Rangers, DPS, and Special Operations Group chose Reveille Peak Ranch for the site of the memorial service because Kristi and Vol Montgomery, owners of the facility, open it up to law enforcement, first responders, and military for training. Apolo had visited and trained there. 

According to a statement by Collins announcing Apolo’s passing in January, the K9 “conducted explosive detection searches, high-risk tactical missions, manhunts, and civil unrest operations across Texas. Apolo participated in border security missions and provided dignitary protection and extensive venue searches for gubernatorial events, Super Bowl LI, and U.S. presidential and vice presidential visits.”

Ortega said Apolo was partnered with Miller until Miller left the group. The K9 was then assigned to work with Staff Sgt. Isaac Jimenez. Apolo lived with Jimenez and his family until he died.

“I know to you, Isaac, and your family, he was more than a teammate,” the major said, looking in the direction of Jimenez and his family. 

Collins concurred.

“We’ve all got some memories of Apolo,” Collins added. “And not only was he a trailblazer, but he was your teammate and he was your brother and a part of your family that can never be replaced.”

Apolo was with Jimenez and his family at the time of his death. 

Martelle Luedecke of Luedecke Photography contributed to this report.

daniel@thepicayune.com