Even on his sickest days, police dog Caesar had the drive to work and never broke his stride.
When the alarm clock went off every morning, he would get excited to go to the police car. Or when the phone rang and his handler police officer Jason Swart started to put on his uniform for an assignment, Caesar was ready to go without any hesitation.
The beloved dog, a member of the for the last six years, on Tuesday after he suffered from kidney failure. In addition, about a year ago Caesar was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease – incurable, but controllable with medications. Swart said doctors don't know what caused the kidney failure, but it was not related to his earlier diagnosis.
"I lost a friend, I lost a partner, I lost a family member," Swart said of his 7-year-old dog, who came from Munich, Germany and was specifically trained for police work.
As much as Caesar was dedicated and loved to work, he also got great satisfaction out of it. He loved work so much, in large part, because it was like playtime – he would get treats, toys and praise from his handler after he completed a successful task.
"He got to play all the time," Swart said.
When Caesar was diagnosed with the inflammatory bowel disease, Swart knew he would have to prepare to retire his dog earlier. But when the doctors told him his dog had a slim, 10-percent chance of recovering from the kidney failure, he had to make a difficult decision.
"It's not a decision you ever really want to make," he said, but he finds comfort Caesar is no longer suffering.
"He had given me a look in the morning before we went to the vet," Swart said. "It was a rather somber look."
A look as if Caesar was asking him to make the pain go away.
Swart and Caesar had been inseparable for the last six years. Although the dog belonged to the police department, Swart trained and cared for the dog. In the K9 field officers are told not to get attached to their partners because of the higher probability they might die in the line of duty. That's very difficult, Swart said, because you still care for the dog and pay attention to him.
He said Caesar was also attached to him, had great respect for him and never left his side.
"You sit on the coach, he is there. You go to the shower, he is sitting on the bathroom floor," Swart said, recollecting the good memories of Caesar.
Caesar's service and police work cannot go unnoticed. Swart said it was difficult to pinpoint a memorable moment in Caesar's career, because every day they did something related to K9 work – whether it was to locate a missing person, catch a perpetrator, or find drugs.
"He was a very good police dog," Swart said. "We had such great chemistry."
Besides loving what he did at work, Caesar was a gentle, kind and loving dog, who loved to play with toys at home, Swart said. Some misconceptions people might have is that police dogs are violent, but people who had interacted and knew Caesar saw him as "gentle" and "loving."
"He loved attention and loved being loved," Swart said.
Caesar was also able to switch off in an instant from working to being the sociable and loving dog he was. All it took was one command and he could switch from barking and biting a dog training bite sleeve to going around looking to be petted by whomever was in the room.
"He was so highly trained and had such a high intellect that he was able to switch off," Swart said. "It's going to be very difficult to replace him."
Swart said the police dog was a valuable tool to the police department and he knows they would soon have to get another dog to provide the same service to the community. The Yorktown Police Department was one of the first in the area to have a canine unit – since 1975.
"It's a very sad day for the police department, but also for the community," he said. "They lost a valuable asset."
A memorial service has not been announced yet, but there are plans to honor Caesar in the upcoming weeks.
"It's a big loss," Yorktown Police Lt. Kevin Soravilla said. "We're still trying to get over it."