HANAHAN, SC (WCSC) - The Hanahan Police Department is mourning the loss of one of their own. The force's only K-9, named Shadow, died suddenly after a training session late Tuesday night. A week before the service dog's death, veterinarians gave the K-9 a clean bill of health at a yearly checkup.
"It's completely out of the blue... I'm still in shock," said the dog's handler Corporal Travis Lanphere. "It really felt like I got kicked in the stomach."
Cpl. Lanphere and Shadow worked together for the last five years. Lanphere says the K-9 lived up to his name, always protecting his handler and acting as his shadow.
"Any time I turn around You know if I'm driving he right there," said Lanphere. "If we're out walking around like that he's right here at my side... He was my best friend."
According to Police Chief Mike Cochran, the 6-year-old K-9 passed away just after completing "bite training" at the Ladson Fairgrounds.
Lanphere says Shadow was training on a decoy during the afternoon. The Corporal says they choose the time later in the afternoon to beat the heat.
After training, Lanphere said Shadow was put back in the K-9 vehicle.
"Then we heard a loud noise that came from inside the truck that was not typical," said Lanphere. "I opened up the door and he was laid down moving back and forth. We could tell something was wrong."
The K-9 unit rushed shadow to an emergency veterinarian.
"By the time we got to the vet clinic he was completely unresponsive," said Lanphere. "He was looking at me and I was petting his head then out of nowhere his head jerked violently back. Seven to 10 minutes later the doctor came over to me and told me he was gone."
Lanphere's bond with Shadow is much deeper than a working relationship.
"I'll miss him forever," said his handler. "I'll never stop missing that dog. It breaks my heart."
Shadow began serving the department in 2008.
During his time of service, Lt. Michael Fowler said Shadow located a countless amount of narcotics and made 26 non-bite K-9 apprehensions. His services were also utilized by other surrounding agencies on multiple occasions.
Most recently, Shadow was in the squad car with Cpl. Lanphere during a high speed chase in Tanner Plantation. Shadow wasn't needed to assist in the arrest after the car crashed, but Lanphere says he was ready.
"It's a deep loss without losing an officer it's pretty darn close," said Chief Cochran. "I don't know how you overcome it. You can replace him but you'll never replace him. We'll move forward but we won't forget."
The Police department planned on performing a necropsy on the animal to determine the cause of death.
Fowler says Shadow's passing was the first death in the 'line of duty' in the history of the Hanahan police department.
The force will be getting a new K-9 next month. The purchase of that service dog was made well before Shadow passed away. Fowler expects their new K-9 to be up and running within the next two months after it goes through training.
Shadow was laid to rest and cremated at the McAlister-Smith Funeral home in Goose Creek.