Viper – a well-known K9 Officer in the Hillsborough Police Department – has died.

Viper passed away on Wednesday, October 21, following a sudden illness. He was nearly 10 years old, having served the town for six years before retiring from police work last fall and living full-time with Officer 1st Class Mike Toellen, Viper’s handler, and his family.

“Viper was a great police K9 and a fantastic asset for the department,” said Lt. Davis Trimmer, commander of the Patrol Division, in a press release. “He was so outgoing and social and a great representative of the Hillsborough Police Department. We have missed him since his retirement, and our hearts go out to Mike and his family. Our police dogs, even after retirement, are a part of the HPD family.”

Viper retired last fall after developing an unidentified medical condition that made it difficult for him to walk long distances, or even to work. After taking up residence full-time as a family dog, Viper developed a strong bond with Toellen’s son.

“It gave me tremendous peace of mind that Viper was looking out for my family while I was at work,” said Toellen.

In his time as a dual-purpose patrol dog, Viper tracked people, searched buildings and located narcotics – all in addition to protecting his partner and apprehending suspects. The Hillsborough Police Department’s remaining K9 officer, Vader, continues to work with Cpl. Scott Foster.