Earlier this week, police officers from across western Massachusetts paid their respects to a fellow member of the force: a terminally ill dog from the Pittsfield K-9 unit.
Against the backdrop of the Berkshire mountains, a line of police cruisers – most with their rotating lights on – parked along the winding driveway that leads to the Pittsfield veterinary hospital. Several were K-9 units with barking dogs inside.
At the entrance to the vet, a few dozen police officers, fire fighters, and civilians had formed two rows, facing each other. Some had come from more than 50 miles away -- including Springfield, Palmer, and Ware.
They were waiting for the arrival of a 13-year-old German Shephard named Ciro, a retired police dog on his last call.
Ciro had recently been diagnosed with an aggressive form of stomach cancer and his family was bringing him here to be euthanized.
When Ciro was ushered out of a police car, a hush fell across the crowd. On command, every officer raised their hand in salute as Ciro was led by leash through the two lines of mourners.
After the dog and his tearful handlers disappeared inside the hospital, the officers remained in salute for a few moments. Then many of them hugged.
"Most people think they're just dogs," said Pittsfield police officer Darren Derby, "but they become part of us, they become one of us."
Derby was among those who worked with Ciro, whose duties included sniffing for drugs, tracking suspects, and on occasion helping to apprehend them.
Ciro retired from the Pittsfield police in 2017 after 11 years -- the longest serving dog in the department.
"We celebrate their lives like they are a law enforcement officer," Derby said. "They went to work every day, wore a badge, protect and serve."
Ciro had loved to swim and just before the end, his longtime police partner took him to the lake one more time.
The Pittsfield police department, on its Facebook page, posted a final message to Ciro: "We have the watch from here."