Moments before he would say goodbye to his K-9 partner of nine years, Trooper Christopher Coscia paused in his cruiser and penned a heartfelt letter, describing what the dog meant to him.
“I don’t even know what made me do it,” Coscia said today in a telephone interview. “I just wanted to get everything I was feeling out onto the paper.”
The letter, which was posted Tuesday on the Massachusetts State Police website, describes the 48-year-old Franklin resident’s final ride with Dante, his German shepherd. In the years they spent together, Coscia said, the pair went on about 2,500 rides in his police cruiser. But this one was unlike the others. On Jan. 2 he drove his friend to the veterinarian's office to be euthanized, ending his struggle with pulmonary hypertension.
What was originally supposed to be a cathartic release has become an Internet sensation. Coscia’s words and his struggle with the decision to euthanize the dog have been shared around the world.
“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 a while sticking his head through the cage, letting me know things will be alright. But the more he reassures me, the more I wonder if what I am doing is right,” Coscia wrote.
He was interviewed on the Today Show, in the New York Daily News, and on Buzzfeed. The letter was translated into Italian on a news blog abroad. The posting has been viewed by more than 1.2 million people, State Police said. By late this afternoon, nearly 35,000 people had “liked” the story, nearly 20,000 people had shared it, and nearly 10,000 people had commented on it,.
“I’m just trying to get through them all,” he said. “It’s nice to have the support.”
Dante was a regal-looking animal with a gigantic head and perky ears, said Coscia. Dante was more of a “one-person dog” and was rarely interested in spending time with anyone but his owner.
“He was very protective of me and my family,” said Coscia. “He was not one of those dogs that wanted to play with everyone. He was sort of aloof.”
The furry, tan crimefighter was a big help to State Police. He helped find cocaine that had been sealed in jars of beans, stopped a runaway murderer, and found millions of dollars worth of drugs in recent years, said Coscia.
“He was very intelligent,” said Coscia.
Around Thanksgiving, Dante fainted unexpectedly. After running tests, veterinarians determined the cause: pulmonary hypertension, high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs. In the ensuing weeks, Dante began having seizures as well.
Eventually, Coscia, his two children, and his wife chose to put the dog to sleep, ending his suffering. Coscia, choking up on the phone a little, said he misses the dog terribly. Working without his companion has been difficult.
But today his new K-9 partner Felix returned from training, and he will begin work soon, said Coscia.
“I’m looking forward to starting with him, too,” said Coscia. “He has a lot to live up to. Dante was the perfect dog.”