There is a heartrending moment when pet owners realize it's time it time to say a final goodbye to their dear companion. For Massachusetts State Trooper Christopher Coscia, it came on a cold morning in early January when Dante, his K-9 partner of more than eight years-a big, loyal, smart German Shepherd-suffered a yet another seizure in the fresh snow outside of their house. "He was so beautiful, he was hard no to love," Coscia tells Yahoo Shine. "Everybody just wanted to be with him." When the officer got up his nerve to bring the animal to put to be sleep, they took what he refers to as "One Last Ride" in a moving obituary he posted on the State Police Facebook page on Tuesday. He says he thought he was just putting it up for his colleagues at headquarters who knew Dante, but he's since received an outpouring of love and support from as far away as England, and the tribute has been liked over 8,000 times. [You can read the full text here.]
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"Dante was best described as a one-person dog," Coscia wrote, "Every morning when I opened the door to his kennel he would jump up on me, wrap his paws around my waist, get his morning greeting and pat from me, storm up the stairs, and push the door open ready to go to work." Coscia tells Yahoo Shine that the dog loved his job and on some days he wouldn't get out of the back of the cruiser to go home. "After my shift, I'd go to the car and open the door, and I'd have to grab him by the collar and say, 'That's it, work's over.'"
The letter outlines the dog's stunning career fighting crime throughout the state: how he tracked down abductees and murderers and sniffed out illicit drugs including more than 1,000 grams of heroin, over 8,600 grams of cocaine, at least 1,000 pounds of marijuana, as well as helped recover more than $14 million in cash. The dog was sharply intelligent, so clever that he learned how to open the cruiser door, a skill he used to get closer to his favorite person. "He took this new knowledge and taught himself to slide open the door that separated us in the cruiser, his way to always be close to me," he wrote. "While on patrol he would stick his head through for his occasional ear rub."
As vibrant and strong as the Dante appeared to be for much of his life, he suffered from incurable pulmonary hypertension, a disease that prevented him from absorbing enough oxygen. After a series of tests, his veterinian found that his heart had become enlarged and his brain was being suffocated. Coscia says Dante had his first seizure around Thanksgiving. Coscia's wife and two children, who were only one and three-years-old when Dante came to live with them, witnessed his last collapse in the yard through their kitchen window. "I realized my wife and two children had been intently watching us to make sure all was okay," he wrote. "But it wasn't, and when I walked in the door, my wife and daughter were crying, knowing what was to be coming...sooner than we were ready."
After more than 2000 official rides together-not counting the family vacations and trips to friend's houses because the dog hated being separated from his master-it was time for Coscia and his partner to take a final tour. Even though Dante had barely been able to walk after his seizure, Coscia described how the dog remained stoic and alert in the cruiser. They circled for eight hours, putting off the grim task ahead. "How does the dog who can barely breathe remain upright and vigilant for so long?" he wondered. Before they reached their destination, Coscia pulled into a parking lot to compose his last goodbye. "I write this story with tears in my eyes and flowing freely down my face. Dante is still somehow sitting upright watching me as I write about him, every once in awhile sticking his head through the cage, letting me know things will be alright."
Coscia tells Yahoo Shine that he hasn't been able to fully reread his letter, and that the loss of Dante has been rough on his whole family. But he adds that a new K-9 recruit is helping them through it. "Without Felix, it would have been impossible," he says referring to a bouncy three-year-old German Shepherd that he started training in September. "He's happy-go-lucky and always wagging his tail." Felix has his final exams this week, and if he passes, Coscia will soon be cruising with a new partner.
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