The handler of a police dog that caught dozens of criminals and recovered more than R1m worth of stolen goods has bid an emotional farewell to his four-legged partner who succumbed to cancer.
Bonzo was donated to the police as a puppy by a resident in Port Alfred and his tour of duty in the force spanned six years.
During that time he caught 49 fleeing and hiding suspects, including two abalone poachers hiding in sand dunes, along with a haul of abalone and diving gear.
Bonzo was withdrawn from duty for medical reasons and officially retired on February 4 at the age of 11. His handler bought him so he can “retire at home”.
On Friday, his family noticed that he was not well and had difficulty lying down and standing up.
“He was not able to ingest anything. He was taken to a vet and was diagnosed with a growth on his pancreas,” said police spokesperson Capt Mali Govender.
“The veterinarian suggested removal of the pancreas to prevent the cancer from spreading. When she operated on Bonzo she discovered that his body was riddled with cancer and all his organs were affected.
“There was nothing she could do for him and he was in severe pain. She then stitched his wound and woke him up so that his family could spend some time with him and bid him farewell before she euthanised him,” said Govender.
“This was one of the saddest days of my life. Bonzo was not just my partner, he was a hero and a true friend, I will miss him,” said his handler, Warrant Officer Tertius Neethling.
Bonzo had a long history of gastric problems which made him tire easily, but was always eager to be on the beat and fight crime.
“He was a pup full of vigour, energy, inquisitive. He brought immense joy to those around him,” said Govender.
“Despite being kicked and attacked by suspects, he always managed a successful arrest.”
Cluster commander Brig Morgan Govender said, “Farewell brave colleague. You were a warrior and loyal to the SAPS. You will always be remembered for your courage, loyalty and dedication. It’s your time to rest. We will miss you.”