COLUMBIA — Cezar never called in sick.
On Thursday, the K-9 officer was working with his handler, Sgt. Josh Bayer, on a drug case. On Sunday morning, Bayer found the 9-year-old German Shepherd dead.
Bayer took Cezar to the veterinarian Saturday because Cezar's appetite seemed off. His kidneys were failing, the vet told Bayer, and were only operating at 25 percent of their capacity. But Cezar could live another three years, the vet said.
But Cezar didn't make it one more day.
Though he was sick, Cezar never missed a day of work.
"He loved to work," Bayer said. "He knew the difference between home and work. He got really excited when I put on my uniform because he knew it was time to go."
Over his eight years of service with the Columbia Police Department, Cezar and Bayer spent hours in a squad car together. They were together when a search warrant was executed by the department. Cezar and Bayer looked for senior citizens who wandered away from nursing homes together. Cezar and Bayer worked on drug cases together.
They not only worked together, they lived together, eating in the same kitchen, sleeping in the same room. That's where Bayer found him on Sunday morning -- in his usual sleeping spot beside Bayer's bed.
"I am so used to him following me around at home, from room to room. He's not doing that. So, that's different," Bayer said. " ... I can't imagine what it's going to be like when I go back to work."
Cezar followed his training to the end, Chief Joe Edwards said.
"These dogs are trained not to show any weakness," Edwards said. "They get and go and nothing stops them. He's worked right up until the end."
Cezar was born in Slovakia in 2004.
While he was undergoing training to become a police dog, Columbia schoolchildren and civic organizations raised the $15,000 for Cezar, the equipment and training. He was Columbia's first and only K-9 officer.
"He was a huge part of the community," Edwards said.
Cezar joined Bayer on April 6, 2005.
"They were so close," Edwards said. "It was a parent-child relationship." Of Bayer, Edwards said, "He's devastated."
Funeral arrangements for Cezar are pending.