In his eight years with the NYPD, canine officer Hunter sniffed out illegal guns, while bringing joy to children of all ages.
Hunter, an 11-year-old German shepherd, ended his watch last week. He spent a final, heart-wrenching day with his partner and other NYPD officers before one final walk to an animal hospital on Staten Island.
“He was probably one of the best canines that a canine-handler could ask for,” said his partner, Detective Chris Bonomo, 45, of Long Island. “He was kind and gentle, but yet when the bell rang, it was time. He did his job. He could just be a dog. Playing ball out in the field, and then going out and getting called for a job.”
Hunter joined the NYPD in 2006 and retired in 2014. He spent his days putting his snout to work — finding handguns tossed by criminals. He was trained to detect gunpowder and possible survivors of disasters.
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His most challenging duty came in 2010, when he searched the rubble of earthquake-ravaged Port-au-Prince, Haiti, looking for life for 15 days in sweltering heat amid unspeakable despair.
“No matter where you stood in Haiti and looked around, nothing was totally standing,” Bonomo said. “The only thing that was still standing was the embassy, and even that was partially collapsed.”
“The dogs had a little bit of a challenge. It was probably about 105 to 110 there, in the peak of the day,” Bonomo said. So every 20 minutes, Hunter and the other rescue dogs would need to be hosed down, to keep their body temperatures low.
And even after retirement, Hunter continued to touch people’s lives. He helped a 6-year-old leukemia patient from Georgia, Karma Little, fulfill her dream of being an NYPD officer for a day.
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“He was great with her. She adored him. She was petting him, taking pictures with him, and he was kind of eating up the limelight,” Bonomo said.
“She was loving on him and petting on him. She tried to keep him — ‘We can take him home, right mommy?,'" said Jennifer Little, Karma’s mom. “He was very good with her. He was very calm, and she was pulling him around on his leash.”
Karma became fascinated with becoming a cop when she travelled to Sloan Kettering for chemotherapy, met NYPD Officer Sara Moran and realized that women can serve as police officers.
“That’s her goal, to get a police dog one day,” her mom said.
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Toward the end of his life, Hunter suffered from hip dysplasia — a common health problem for older German shepherds — and other ailments.
The pain became too great, and last Friday, Bonomo took him to the Rosebank Animal Hospital on Staten Island. Before that, he gave his canine companion a chance to say goodbye.
“I came into work with Hunter that morning. I carried him into the office because he was unable to walk,” Bonomo said. “I laid him down on the floor with all the other officers who worked with me…"
“And he just sat there, looking around at everybody, and I broke out a box of milk bones, gave him a couple of milk bones. Some of the other officers were feeding him milk bones.”
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Bonomo and a fellow officer made Hunter’s grim last trip with him.
“It was a rough thing. But he went out with class, he went out with dignity,” Bonomo said. “Right to the end, he was a great dog.”Send a Letter to the Editor