BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- The Brunswick County Sheriff's Office is grieving after losing a dedicated K-9 this weekend during a drug investigation.
According to the Sheriff's Office the Drug Enforcement Unit was investigating in the Ash area around 7:30 p.m. Saturday when K-9 Viper, a Belgian Malinous, and his handler Dep. Jared Zeller were called out to help search for a large amount of cocaine.
When they found the drugs, Viper bit through the plastic wrap and the tape surrounding the two-pound package of cocaine, which led to a severe reaction from ingesting it. Viper was taken to to a veterinary hospital in Southport, where he was pronounced dead.
Zeller says he and Viper were more than just partners.
"They come home with us," said Zeller. "They interact with us. He was a member of my family.
He says Viper's final act of service was a testament to how much the canines do for the community.
"They can find that lost child that's in the woods that we couldn't find," said Zeller. "They can smell the odor of narcotics inside a car or inside a home."
He and Viper would train for six hours every week to keep them as sharp as possible. They were hardly ever separated during their time together and he says things just won't be the same.
"I think the hardest thing is going to be when I go back to work, not putting him in the car, not having him ride around with me," said Zeller. "It's going to be tough."
There will be a memorial service in Viper's honor Tuesday morning at 11 a.m. at the Sheriff's Office in Bolivia.