WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - As the Brunswick County Sheriff's office fired off a salute Tuesday morning in Bolivia, dozens of K9 teams stood by in support of a deputy who lost his four-legged partner.
Deputy Jared Zeller sat front and center with his family, as hundreds of people gathered around him in the parking lot to celebrate K9 Viper's life.
"They're not pets," said Cpl. Brian Chism. "They're deputies. They deserve the same respect that any other deputy would if he died in the line of duty."
On Tuesday, total strangers showed up to show Viper that respect.
"I wanted to pay my respects to him because he was a loyal servant of our city and our county," said resident Marcia Jackson.
The memorial ceremony lasted about a half hour. Zeller stayed composed, just wiping a stray tear away every so often. He was with Viper when he died early Sunday morning after coming in contact with a kilo of cocaine. The dog had just discovered the drug after being ordered to search a 100-acre cornfield in Ash.
"It's an amazing thing that we had together, and I'm gonna miss it tremendously," said Zeller.
Viper will be cremated in Fayetteville, and his ashes will be sent back Brunswick County for Zeller to keep.
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