Luca, the retired Fort Worth police K-9 that earned national recognition for helping rescue an elderly man with Alzheimer’s from the freezing Trinity River last year, died Friday morning, police said Monday.
The 12-year-old German shepherd had Degenerative Myelopathy, a degenerative spine condition, according to a police news release.
Luca, who was owned by Fort Worth police officer Cole Brock, will still be featured on the nationally televised “American Humane Hero Dog Awards” show Oct. 25 (7 p.m., Hallmark Channel). He won the award for Search and Rescue Dog, an honor that was announced Oct. 2.
“There is no easy way to say goodbye and realizing that the time is imminent is even worse,” Brock said in a statement. “Luca’s life was less than ordinary and he did incredible things thanks to incredible people being a part of his life and believing in him.”
Luca helped rescue the elderly man on March 15, 2016.
The man’s friend had called police after realizing the man was missing. After an extensive search, one of the responding officers, Brock, was asked if Luca, 10 at the time, would be of any help.
The dog had excelled in area, water, avalanche and forest/desert searches. Brock also knew helping out would mean a helicopter ride for Luca, which the dog loved.
At the scene, Luca quickly alerted officers to an opening in the brush at the Trinity River, which led to a steep hill followed by a steep drop-off. A police helicopter responded and officers immediately spotted the lost man in the river, stuck in waist-high mud on the opposite bank.
Officers shed their gear, swam across and rescued the man.
If not for Luca, officers believed the man would have drowned in the fast-moving water or succumbed to the cold.
This report contains information from the Star-Telegram archives