KRONENWETTER (WAOW)-- K-9 Officer Luis Lopes-Serrao was back on the beat in Kronenwetter Wednesday, but without his beloved partner. His K-9, Chip, had to be put down earlier in the week after being diagnosed with blastomycosis.
"Not having him in that car is different. Not having him bark every time I pull over a car is different," said Lopes-Serrao of his first day back with the department. He told Newsline 9 he's devastated.
"All I would have to do is walk out by my car, open the door and he'd jump in and he'd be ready to go," he said of the K-9.
On Monday, Lopes-Serrao had to make a difficult decision--ending the life of his friend and partner of two years. A valuable member of the Kronenwetter Police Department that he said made a big impact.
"They do hear that dog and they know nobody's going to run faster than he will," he said.
Chip joined the force two years ago. With time and training, the two formed an unbreakable bond.
"You start to get a sense of their breathing habits and the way their body movement changes," Lopes-Serrao said. That bond is exactly why Lopes-Serrao noticed something was wrong with his partner on Sunday. "Right away I could see his breathing was off."
So he took the three-year-old belgian malinois to the vet. "His one whole lung was, uh, completely shutting down and his other one was compromised," an emotional Lopes-Serrao told Newsline 9.
Chip was diagnosed with blastomycosis, a disease caused by fungus in the soil. Humans or animals can inhale the spores.
"He wouldn't look at me, he just laid down on the floor over my shoes and put his head down and I couldn't get him to move at all," Lopes-Serrao said of his K-9. He could tell the dog was in pain and when doctors said he probably wouldn't survive treatment, he knew what he had to do.
"We wanted to end his suffering."
And while Chip may not be in his car anymore, Lopes-Serrao said there are reminders everywhere. From hair still in his squad's back seat, to toys and a water bowl in the trunk.
"It changed my career forever. It's going to stick with me," he said.
Two years with a partner, who will never be forgotten. "It's been an incredible experience. I wish we would have had more years together," Lopes-Serrao said.
Kronenwetter police said they will decide in a few weeks if they can afford to add another K-9 officer to the department. But officers say Chip can never truly be replaced.