With mixed emotions, Coast Guard Petty Officer Sandor Csitar played fetch with his dog, Hawk, in their office Thursday. Around Coast Guard Island, Csitar and Hawk have a legendary and beloved status.
Hawk was the first police dog to ever work on the base.
"It's more than just a dog-handler relationship," Csitar said. "It's a partner friendship."
Dozens of people gathered on Thursday for the most serious of occasions, Hawk's retirement from the Coast Guard.
Hawk's career has been so distinguished, as one last symbolic act; he was promoted to the rank of chief. As far as anyone can remember, this was the first time a dog has achieved the rank of chief in the Coast Guard. It was a singular honor.
Unfortunately,in Hawk's case, this story does not have a happy ending.
"I came back from a training mission and I noticed Hawk was limping on his right front leg," said Csitar.
Hawk has problems walking, and even standing, due to a birth defect in his spine. Over the past two years, it has ruined his quality of life.
"Imagine having the worst migraine of your life, every day of your life," said Csitar.
Tomorrow, as the most humane was to end Hawk's suffering, Csitar and the Coast Guard have decided to put the heroic dog to sleep.
"He knows Dad's upset; he knows he's in pain. I don't believes he knows what will happen tomorrow," Csitar said.
If it is any comfort, rarely has one dog received so much love from so many people at one time. Of anyone here, this may be hardest on Csitar's son Steal, who know Hawk more as a pet than as military property.
"You know I love you right? You know he loves you, right?" said Csitar to his son.
As any dog owner knows the toughest act of love is that decision to say farewell, knowing it is for the best, and to live with it.
"Hawk will always be with me," said Csitar.
Lucky for Csitar, in a time like this, that he has so many friends to help him move on without his best one.