“I’m moved by what Rocco meant to Officer Lerza and his family. That’s exactly why I feel passionately about the work of my foundation. These dogs play a critical role in keeping our communities safe, and the bond with their partner is unique because they live with them and are part of their family. Rocco was special.” — Ben, earlier this week.

From Amy McConnell Schaarsmith and Liz Navratil, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

RoccoHowever priceless a police K-9 like Rocco becomes to his handler, his handler’s family and his unit, acquiring and training him comes at great cost.

The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police spends between $6,500 and $8,000 to purchase an untrained dog with Rocco’s raw talent for police work, according to a spokesperson. Sharpening that talent into real, proven skills can costs tens of thousands of dollars and months of training, creating an additional burden for an already grieving police unit when a canine officer dies.

Pittsburgh is still mourning the loss of Rocco, an 8-year-old German shepherd originally from the Czech Republic who will be honored with a service at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Oakland on Friday. But while no one can replace Rocco, who died Thursday evening from blood loss and pneumonia resulting from a stab wound from a suspect, the department might soon have help with the expense of finding and training another K-9 officer.

The Ben Roethlisberger Foundation, begun by the Steelers quarterback in 2006 to acquire and train police dogs, plans to begin announcing grants now that the Super Bowl is over, said foundation relationship manager Jessica Duffaut.

“I do believe we’ll be making a separate announcement regarding Rocco’s department and what we might be able to do for them,” Ms. Duffaut said.

Ms. Duffaut did not discuss what, if any, dollar amount might be offered. Since 2006, the foundation has made grants in excess of $1 million.

For now, she said, Pittsburgh residents need a chance to grieve for Rocco.

You can read more here.

You can also read about efforts to enact “Rocco’s Law” here.

Want to learn more about Ben’s foundation? You can do so here.

Photo: Pittsburgh Police Department