Port Elizabeth – It was a sad day for Nelson Mandela Bay police on Sunday, when a veteran search and rescue dog named Kojack had to be put down after an ongoing battle with cancer.Kojack, a German Shepherd search and rescue dog, had been an integral part of the Mandela Bay based K9 unit. He was taken off active duty in May this year when an x-ray revealed that he had a brain tumour. After retiring, Kojack’s handler, warrant officer Etienne Gerber, took him home and cared for him.Kojak had been with Gerber for eight years and together they had engaged in over 650 search and rescue operations across the province and had recovered about 275 bodies.Police spokesperson, Colonel Priscilla Naidu, said Gerber had woken during the early hours of Sunday morning to the sound of Kojack whimpering and went to see if he was okay."He found the dog lying half outside of his kennel. He knew that Kojak was not well and remained with the dog.""By then Kojak had lost consciousness and was deteriorating," she said.Nadu said Kojack was taken to a veterinary clinic in Walmer, but nothing more could be done for him and he was laid to rest.Gerber and his family were devastated by Kojack's passing. "It's like losing a child. We are all shattered and have lost a member of our family. It was a very difficult decision to make to have him put down, and I am deeply saddened by his loss," said Gerber."Police dogs are our silent heroes who give tirelessly of themselves without the need for recognition."