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Sheepdogs held special meaning for slain sheriff's deputy

February 22, 2013 | 11:00 am

PHOTOS: Remembering a deputy

During the funeral Thursday for San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremiah MacKay, two sheepdogs flanked his best friend, Roger Loftis.

The sheepdogs, Loftis said, held a special meaning for MacKay, the 35-year-old deputy killed last week in a shootout with accused killer Christopher Dorner. Several colleagues who eulogized MacKay ended their remarks with the phrase, "Sheepdog up!" 

MacKay was inspired by the animals, which he saw as protectors, said Loftis, who was the best man in MacKay’s wedding. MacKay believed that “good, caring people, people that don’t have a capacity for violence” were like “sheep that needed to be protected,” Loftis said.

PHOTOS: Remembering a deputy

MacKay was hailed as a hero for his actions at the Big Bear area cabin where the massive manhunt for Dorner, a former police officer suspected of a violent rampage that left three others dead, came to an end Feb. 12. Dorner died in the shootout from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound as the cabin went up in flames, officials said.

Thousands of people attended MacKay’s funeral at San Manuel Amphitheater in San Bernardino.

“There are people in the world – evil people, evil men – capable of evil deeds,” Loftis said. “Their capacity for violence knows no bounds. And they will feed on the flock without mercy. And then there are the sheep dogs…that live to protect the flock.”

WHO THEY WERE: Victims in the Dorner case

MacKay kept the words of Dave Grossman -- an author and retired Army lieutenant colonel who wrote about the sheepdog symbolizing protection  -- taped to a filing cabinet at the office, Loftis said.

To be a sheepdog, Loftis said, “one must have a capacity for violence but a strong love for his fellow man. Jeremiah was a man like that.”

Laura Zimmerman, of West Hills, brought her sheepdog, Hudson, to the funeral at the request of the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department and the family, she said.

FULL COVERAGE: Sweeping manhunt for ex-cop

Zimmerman, a member of the national Old English Sheepdog Club of America, said her dog and the others present were remarkably quiet during the funeral, even during the 21-gun salute.

Sheepdogs walked with a procession of family members, colleagues and MacKay’s flag-draped casket around the amphitheater as the funeral began.

A horse also walked with the procession. It had no rider but had two boots in its saddle, representing a “fallen hero looking back at his comrades one last time,” said San Bernardino Capt. Lee Hamblin.


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Photo: Roger Loftis, at left, speaks as the funeral for fallen San Bernardino Sheriff's Deputy Jeremiah MacKay, with a sheepdog by his side. Credit: Kurt Miller / Pool