A photo showing a German Shepherd K-9, named Kaiser, walking behind his trainer during his final moments of life on Friday, with fellow officers saluting him on either side, has gone viral.
The image of the hero dog on his last trip to the veterinarian to be euthanized due to a severe and irreversible illness has touched hearts not only in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where he has served the community for two years, but throughout the world.
Kaiser joined the force in 2011, when he was donated by a family, according to the Enterprise.
His handler, Officer James Lebretton posted a statement on Facebook on Wednesday saying, “It is with deep regret and sorrow that I announce the retirement of my partner K-9 Kaiser. Kaiser was recently diagnosed with severe kidney disease/failure leaving his health to decline rapidly.”
Lebretton said that although Kaiser’s duty on the police force was cut short, "he made a huge impact that will never be forgotten."
"I feel privileged to have had a front row seat to witness his bravery and heroic actions while serving the people of Plymouth and my brothers and sisters in blue.”
Officers stood at full salute to honor Kaiser at the Court Street Animal Hospital and again at the Angel View Pet Cemetery in Middleboro on Friday.
The photo of the brave and loyal dog was first posted on the social media website Reddit and was picked up by news outlets all over the world from England and Norway to North Carolina and Ohio, sparking support and bringing tears to eyes all over the world, the Enterprise reports.
Lebretton responded on Friday to supporters on Facebook, saying:
“To my boys in blue. Never in my career have I ever been so proud. You outdid yourselves today. I could not have asked for a better send off. Lastly, to all of you who sent your regards over the past few days...I thank you. I read every single post and listened to every message.”
“Kaiser served you well and the streets of Plymouth were safer when he was on patrol. The compassion was overwhelming and I am humbled at the support from perfect strangers.”
On Friday, Lebretton shared his final message on Facebook:
“RIP my boy. I could not have asked for a better partner or friend. May you rest easy and wait for me at that sacred bridge. I will be there my friend. I will be there. I will never forget you or our accomplishments. You made me a better person, a better handler, and a better cop. Till we meet again, Kai. I love you and will miss you daily.”