Police dogs are an invaluable part of any police department. They do critical police work, including tracking down missing people. They’re also beloved by their fellow officers, seen as both a pet and a colleague.

When the time comes for these dogs to cross over the rainbow bridge, they deserve a respectful send-off that recognizes their life of hard work and heroism.

That’s what one terminally ill K9 received, with a touching final salute from his fellow officers.

A German shepherd named Candy was part of the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office since 2014, serving as their first narcotics detection dog. In her almost-decade of service, she performed over 2,900 operational searches, helping to seize 278 pounds of illegal narcotics, according to the sheriff’s office.

Candy formed a special bond with her handler, Master Deputy II Anthony “Tony” Natalzia. “She went everywhere with me,” Natalzia told McClatchy News. “You see these dogs more than you see your family.”

But recently he started to notice the 11-year-old dog slowing down. Candy developed a limp and would not eat her food. He took her to the vet, and it was discovered that Candy had cancer which had spread throughout her body.

“It was in her lungs, it was everywhere,” Natalzia said. “The vet said there was nothing they could do and I couldn’t even comprehend it – we had only gone for a routine visit.”

With the terminal cancer advancing, Natalzia knew the humane thing to do was take Candy to the vet to be euthanized. But first, the sweet dog got to say a final goodbye to her police colleagues.

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On Monday, officers organized a ceremonial final walkout for Candy, with officers lining the halls of the Virginia Beach Correctional Center and saluting the retiring K9 as she left work for the final time. Many of the officers are visibly emotional as they say their final goodbye.

Candy carried her favorite tennis ball the whole way. After the walkout, Natalzia drove Candy to the vet, where she was put down.

Police K9 diagnosed with cancer gets saluted by her entire team in her final walkout 🐕🚨
byu/Soloflow786 inMadeMeSmile

Candy was set to retire this year, and Natalzia says he wishes they had gotten to spend time together post-retirement: “You think you’re going to have some time with your dog after they retire so I feel cheated on that end of it but as a responsible handler there was no way I could let her suffer to be selfish,” he told McClatchy News.

While he will always miss Candy, he will now be the handler of a new K9 named Pablo, and hopes to be just as good a team with him as he was with Candy.

What a touching final send-off to this heroic dog — rest in peace, Candy ❤️💙

Please share this moving story in memory of this K9 dog.