When Officer 1st Class Pete Genovese returns to work Thursday afternoon, it will be the first time he will do so without his dedicated partner of close to six years.
Genovese’s partner, a 7-year-old German shepherd-Belgian Malinois named Baron, died early Monday after a medical emergency, according to the Frederick Police Department’s official statement.
“The FPD family really has reached out and I can’t say anything other than how amazing that has been,” Genovese said when reached for comment Tuesday. “… It was actually amazing to see the amount of support that I’ve received.”
While the department’s statement touched only briefly on Baron’s passing, Genovese confirmed that his partner’s death was not related to work and did not happen while the two were on-duty.
After suffering what at first appeared to be a stomach ailment, Baron was admitted to a local veterinarian’s office late Sunday, according to Officer 1st Class Brian Payne, a fellow K-9 handler.
“That’s when we realized it was a lot more serious,” Payne said, explaining how he and another handler, Officer Aaron Gregware, joined Genovese at the vet’s office to wait for updates. “Unfortunately, it was too late.”
Baron was only the second dog to die while still in active service with the department. Bady, a German shepherd-Belgian Malinois, died while recovering from an emergency surgery last May.
Having established himself as a drug detective, Genovese brought Baron in to work with him on the Drug Enforcement Unit shortly after Baron joined the department in July of 2011, Genovese said.
Thinking back, Genovese still recalls one of Baron’s first major finds in 2012 when he was called in on a day off to have Baron — who was trained for drug detection — sniff a suspicious shipping package for another agency.
While Baron was confident when he alerted on the package, Genovese remembers how nervous he was when he learned that the package held an expensive component to an air conditioning system.
“Someone looked it up and found out it was apparently worth, like, thousands of dollars and we start shredding this thing apart,” Genovese said, laughing. “But we finally end up getting into it and there was, I want to say roughly eight pounds of marijuana lining this big metal cylinder.”
As his fellow detectives congratulated them, Genovese said he kept looking at his partner in amazement.
“I remember distinctly thinking, ‘Wow, these dogs are amazing,'” Genovese said. “Because there was no way anybody was going to find that … and [Baron] had no idea that he just took 8 pounds of marijuana off the streets. To him, it was just a game.”
After spending several years in the drug unit, Genovese and Baron began working informally with the agency’s Street Crimes Unit. When Genovese was transferred to the plainclothes unit full time in November, Baron joined him.
To hear Genovese tell it, it would be more accurate to say it was Baron who introduced him to an exciting stint with the DEU and Street Crimes.
“He honestly pushed me to do things that I didn’t originally plan on doing and things that I didn’t know that I could do,” Genovese said.
While working with a dog brings special abilities to the table and opens up doors for police officers to focus on exciting cases, Genovese said he owes just as much to Baron’s stubborn personality as he does to his late partner’s sense of smell and aggressive drive.
Referring to Baron affectionately as “a knucklehead,” Genovese explained how his partner’s sometimes difficult personality forced him to reach out to other experts for advice. Along the way, Genovese built up a reliable professional network and forwarded his own career as a handler.
“I never really thought of him that way until all of this happened, but I owe where I am today to him, and I’ll be forever grateful,” Genovese said.
Payne, who would often take care of Baron when Genovese went on vacation, also remembers Baron’s initially rebellious nature, but quickly compared that to the professionalism Baron displayed later on.
“I remember the very first day that [Genovese] got Baron he brought him over to my house and he didn’t know any obedience and he wouldn’t listen to us, so we took him out to the lake and we stood on either side of him to make sure he didn’t go running off,” Payne said. “So to see him go from that to what he was, it was just amazing to watch … He was obsessed with working, and he was the best.”
Even though they sometimes butted heads, Genovese said Baron was also a source of constant humor and levity, especially when Genovese would bring him into the department’s Special Operations Division.
Most of his coworkers didn’t mind Baron running up to greet them with a quick sniff or a nudge, but one detective became a favorite of Baron’s for the precise reason that the man was very nervous around dogs.
“Baron wouldn’t mess with anyone else at all, but he would sense that, how uneasy this guy was, and he would mess with him relentlessly,” Genovese said. “He would jump up on his leg or jump up on his desk. He would move his mouse or move his keyboard around … it was just so funny to us.”
In between drug busts and high-risk arrests with Baron, Genovese put his expertise to work training the department’s two most recent K-9 additions, Odin and Maverick, who joined the department in the fall of 2017.
Genovese is only a few months away from taking a final test that, once passed, will designate him as a certified K-9 instructor through the North American Police Work Dog Association.
In order to continue with his certification, Genovese will need to continue as a K-9 handler, a decision he was committed to in spite of the pain he is undergoing due to Baron’s death.
“I know I could never replace him, but if the agency allows me to get another dog, then I would be more than happy to continue my K-9 career,” Genovese said.
The topic will likely come up at a meeting later this week, Genovese said.
In the meantime, Genovese was processing his grief by remembering all the happiness Baron brought to his life and career.
“We butted heads on a daily basis, all the way up to the day he passed, but he accepted me for who I was and I accepted him for who he was and we learned how to work together,” Genovese said. “He was a very good dog and he made me a better handler, for sure.”