Cleveland Patrol Officer Antonio Colon, a K-9 handler for the last 25 years, plans to retire this fall.
His wish was to take a final bow on the job with his longtime partner, Jet Black, the German Shepherd who's been by his side — both lounging at home and taking down violent criminals on drug busts — for the last dozen years.
But Jet, at 13 1/2 years of age, had been in declining health. And even though he was spry enough for active duty on Feb. 21, a few days later things had deteriorated to the point where Jet had to be euthanized.
So on Monday, Colon gathered with the entire Cleveland Division of Police where they said their formal farewells to Jet, who was one of the longest serving members of the Cleveland Police K-9 Unit, noted Cleveland.com.
The loss hit Colon particularly hard, given the sounds of the officer's voice cracking as he delivered a moving eulogy to his longtime partner.
"He was my shadow," an audibly bereaved Colon said of Jet, who would follow his human counterpart from the living room to the kitchen and sleep in the hallway just outside the bedroom, always on alert.
"Everywhere I went, he had to be right there with me, by my side."
Colon's family attended the memorial service as well, crying and sniffling along with the officer who lauded the animal who "showed me more love, forgiveness and understanding than any human had shown me."
"I made more friends with Jet by my side than at any other time on this job. He made me feel as if we were movie stars, and that the city was our stage."
Jet was born in Austria two weeks after September 11 and given the moniker Baloo (after the character in "The Jungle Book"). The Cleveland police bought him in 2002 and soon paired him with Colon.
"He was loveable (like Baloo), but that was as far as the comparison went," Colon said, adding that decided to change his name to "something simple" — and it was Jet Black from then on.
"He put fear into criminals' minds, but love into the arms of a child," Colon said.
Jet — who Colon said never backed down from trouble — behaved true to form just as Colon and Sgt. Doug Campion brought him into the vet's office for the final time.
The dog lifted a leg and left one last mark — right atop Campion's foot.
"I don't know if that was Jet showing me what he thought of my supervisory skills," Campion said, "or a sign that he and Tony had done some extra training."
At the end of his eulogy, Colon shelved his notes, looked at the photograph of him and Jet, and added, voice cracking: "Rest well, sweet Baloo."