GEAUGA COUNTY, Ohio — After a year-long battle with an inoperable brain tumor, retired Geauga County Sheriff Dan McClelland passed away Wednesday. Just hours later, McClelland’s K-9 Midge died as well, according to Geauga County dispatch.
McClelland served the county for 44 years with the last 13 years serving as the county sheriff before retiring in 2016. His photo adorns the walls of the Geauga County Safety Center which he helped build.
“I never thought he would retire to tell you the truth because he enjoyed it so much,” current Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand said. “He was here every day. It’s a sad day.”
For the last 16 years, Midge, the K-9 rat terrier chihuahua, was by the sheriff’s side, trained to go where the big dogs couldn’t.
“Typically a drug dog is a big German shepherd,” Hildenbrand said. “The problem is you put the big German shepherd into a car to search and it's kind of clumsy and it’s turning around. His idea was why can’t we use a small dog to do that? Why can’t we use a small dog to sniff out drugs?”
In a 2012 profile on Midge and Sheriff McClelland, the sheriff detailed how Midge became a state-certified drug dog, and even graced the pages of People Magazine and Playboy Magazine, during her rise in popularity.
“Never ever thought Midge would become as well known throughout the world,” McClelland said at the time.
The Guinness Book of World Records highlights Midge as the world’s smallest police dog.
“They were inseparable,” Hildenbrand said. “She was with him 24/7. She was with him all day long. At every meeting he went to, she came to the meetings.”
According to Hildenbrand, the McClelland family returned home after Dan McClelland’s passing to find Midge at home lifeless, after dealing with kidney failure for quite some time. She passed just a couple of hours later.
“I kind of equate it to the couple that’s been married for 70 years and then pass away within hours,” Hildenbrand said. “I think it’s kind of poetic.”
Flags outside the Sheriff’s Office were at half-staff, waving over a makeshift memorial in the sheriff’s honor. The public started dropping off flowers at the sheriff’s office Wednesday.
Geauga County Commissioner Jim Dvorak paid his respects to his fellow Rotarian with the Rotary Club of Burton Middlefield.
“Well, it’s a sad day in Geauga County,” he said. “Our motto is service above self and to me, if you look today in the dictionary today in Geauga County, you’ll see a picture of Dan.”
Dvorak vividly remembers seeing McClelland at a fundraiser last October, even while McClelland was battling treatment for his brain tumor.
“A lot of us had tears of joy for him having a good week and making it to the Geauga Jeep Invasion,” he said. “Now those tears of joy and happiness back in October are sadness today.”
The sheriff’s office asks the public to keep his family in their thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.
"Sheriff McClelland's contributions to the Sheriff's Office, Geauga County Law Enforcement, and our community are innumerable. Sheriff McClelland's mantra, "What can we do to help?" speaks volumes about the leader and servant he was, and the depth of the contributions he made. Sheriff McClelland will be missed dearly. Please keep the McClelland family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time," the Chardon Police Department wrote in a Facebook post.
Funeral services for Sheriff McClelland include visitation on Monday, April 19th from 12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. at Burr Funeral Home, located at 116 South Street in Chardon.
A Celebration of Life is set for Saturday, April 24 at 2:00 p.m. at Guido’s Pizza, located at 12809 Chillicothe Road in Chesterland.
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