He never wore a uniform, never drove a squad car or made an arrest, but he was a prized member of the Yale Police force — and, arguably, the one who most enjoyed being scratched behind the ears.
Eli, the university’s first bomb-sniffing dog, died suddenly of cancer on June 9, leaving behind a legion of fans who included his colleagues in the Yale Police department, members of the campus community, and the hundreds of area youngsters whose schools he visited.
A black Labrador Retriever originally named “Tommy,” Eli came to Yale at 18 months of age. He had washed out of the guide-dog training program due to his unfortunate tendency to chase squirrels and been trained in the olfactory intricacies of detecting explosives — a skill he put to good use on campus during security sweeps before major public events.
Eli worked and lived for eight years with Officer Charles Hebron of the Yale Police Department, a retired Marine.
“He was more than a dog — he was a partner,” said Hebron. “He never complained about my music when we were driving around. He never had an off day. He was always happy to go to work.”
Eli was so content in his career, in fact, that he balked at being left home after he was placed on retirement in November. Hebron set up a bed in Yale Police headquarters where Eli could rest while the police officer worked with his new bomb-detecting canine companion — Whitney, a female black Lab, who undeniably has some big paw prints to fill.