BOLIVIA, NC (WWAY) -- When law enforcement officers lose their life in the line of duty, their funerals are very emotional. Today a tribute in Brunswick County took on special meaning as the Sheriff's Office said goodbye to a four-legged crime fighter.
What started as a ceremony of grieving became a celebration of life for this man's best friend.
"It was just an emotional roller coaster," said Dep. Jared Zeller, as he mourned the loss of his K-9 partner Viper. "It was happy, it was sadness for the loss. I'm glad we were here and a lot of people came out and showed support for viper and the accomplishments that he had."
Tuesday morning the Brunswick County Sheriff's Office held a memorial for Viper. The dog died in the line of duty over the weekend after biting through plastic wrap around two pounds of cocaine he'd found. A severe reaction to the drug took his life. Many on hand for the memorial sympathize with Zeller.
"He's with you in everything you do throughout the day at work, every traffic stop, every search warrant," fellow deputy Cpl. Brian Chism said. "He's always there, and then to all of a sudden lose him is... I couldn't imagine."
Officers and K-9's came from across eastern North Carolina in both support of Dep. Zeller and to celebrate the life of Viper.
"This is part of the family. It's the law enforcement family," Rocky Mount Senior Police Officer Tim Braddy said. "I've never lost one in the line of duty, but it would be like losing a part of your family. He's with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so he is part of your family."
Trained police dogs like Viper are a big part of the Sheriff's Office. That's why Tuesday Viper got the same respect any other deputy would get if he died in the line of duty.
"It's more than a dog," Zeller said. "I don't know how to describe to you how much that it's just not a dog. He's a member of my family. Just because he has four legs, you know he's a deputy. He goes through training just like we do. He puts his life on the line just like we do. It's an amazing thing what these dogs do. They are just not a dog. They're a partner."
Zeller said the Sheriff's Office has approached him about getting another dog. He has not yet made up his mind, though, as Viper is still in his thoughts.