Coscia says the obit was meant for his colleagues at headquarters who knew Dante, but he's since received an outpouring of love and support from strangers as far away as England, and the tribute has been liked more than 10,000 times. [You can read the full text on the Massachusetts State Police Facebook page.]
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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 9-year-old dog truly loved his job, and some days he didn't even want to get out of the patrol car 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.'"
Coscia's letter outlines Dante's stunning career fighting crime throughout the state, documenting how he tracked down abductees and murderers; sniffed out illegal drugs, including more than 1,000 grams of heroin, more than 8,600 grams of cocaine, and at least 1,000 pounds of marijuana; and helped recover more than $14 million in cash. No doubt Dante was one intelligent dog –– so clever, in fact, that he learned how to open the cruiser door, a skill he used to get closer to his favorite human. "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," Coscia wrote. "While on patrol he would stick his head through for his occasional ear rub."
As vibrant and strong as 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 veterinarian found that Dante's heart had become enlarged and his brain was being suffocated. He had his first seizure around Thanksgiving. Coscia's wife and two children, who were only 1 and 3 when their beloved pup first joined the family, 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," Coscia 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 2,300 official rides together — not counting all those off-duty trips to friends' houses and family vacations — it was time for Coscia and his partner to take that final tour. Even though Dante had barely been able to walk after his most recent seizure, Coscia was amazed at how alert his dog was in the cruiser. They circled for eight hours, putting off the inevitable 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 with Dante by his side. "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 make it through a full reading of his completed letter, and that the loss of Dante has been rough on his whole family. But, he adds, a new K-9 recruit is helping them through their tough time. "Without Felix, it would have been impossible," he says, referring to the bouncy 3-year-old German shepherd whom 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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