BANGS — Law enforcement officer and K-9 handler Don Carmack thought he was prepared for his Belgian Malinois’ death as the veteran police service dog took his final breaths.

“I thought I was ready,” Carmack said, recalling how he and his wife laid next to the dog, Boy, and petted him as his life ebbed away.

Boy’s death at 12:29 a.m. Tuesday was “devastating,” Carmack said. Boy died at age 12 of natural causes at the Carmacks’ home in Bangs.

Boy started his career as a police dog with the Brownwood Police Department, and went to the sheriff’s department, where he was teamed with Carmack in 1999.

“We started the (sheriff’s department’s) K-9 program,” Carmack said. “When I took Boy over as his handler, we bonded pretty quick.

Boy was involved in numerous cases including detecting narcotics, tracking suspects and searching for missing people.

He retired from service with the sheriff’s office when Carmack left the department in 2004 to become Bangs police chief. Heeding Carmack’s wish, Brown County transferred Boy to Carmack’s permanent custody.

Even in retirement, Boy found work.

In 2007, Boy led Carmack to a missing teenager near Sidney. About three weeks ago, Boy was involved in his last police case — a search for narcotics in Coleman as law enforcement officials served a search warrant.

Boy’s health began deteriorating rapidly two weeks ago, Carmack said

Monday night, Carmack and his wife, Donette, joined Boy in his outdoor pen for the final 1 1/2 hours of his life. “He just watched us with his eyes,” Carmack said. “It was hard. It got harder as we watched him pass on.”

Donette Carmack said Boy had been part of the family. “He was kind of like one of the kids,” she said.

“He always had that attitude and that defensive mechanism going. But he recognized the hands who feed him and loved on him.”

Boy wasn’t Carmack’s first dog, and wasn’t his last. But Boy was his favorite, he said.

“He had quite a career,” Carmack said. “He definitely took a bite out of crime — literally.”