Word came early on Tuesday morning that Chopper the Biker Dog, a much-loved San Diego canine, had died in his sleep overnight.
For nearly a decade, Chopper rode around San Diego on the back of a motorcycle, sitting with wounded warriors and police officers as they recovered in hospitals, and was celebrated in parades and on social media. He was, arguably, the most famous therapy dog in San Diego.
Shortly after 5 a.m. on Tuesday, Chopper's owner, Mark Shaffer, tweeted that Chopper has passed in his sleep: "R.I.P., Buddy. I love you. I'll miss you. I don't know what I'm going to do without you. I am lost."
The Boston terrier, who was 12 years old and was known for wearing a military veteran-style leather biker vest and sunglasses, has been struggling. In 2020, Shaffer, told NBC 7 that the pup's pandemic-thinned schedule and declining health had an impact on Chopper's spirits.
“We’re doing the best we can," Shaffer said in July 2020. At that time Chopper had been undergoing health issues for nearly a year and a half prior. "We’re hanging in there.”
And then, during the past week, there were a pair of ominous Instagram posts. The first, which was published on Thursday, showed before and after shots of Chopper taken only five days apart, looking very emaciated in the latter. Then, on Sunday, Shaffer uploaded a shot from the AA Sorrento Valley Pet Cemetery & Crematory.
"Many people feel that I'm being selfish and keeping Chopper alive for my own benefit, and to continue 'parading' him around 😡😡," read the post. "That's the furthest from the truth. And it's a shame that I feel I have to post the fact that I am preparing to put my bestest buddy Chopper to rest, and that I have to explain myself. 😢"
PHOTOS: Chopper the Biker Dog
Supporters of both Chopper and his best buddy spoke up on IG.
"Mark I am so sorry that on top of dealing with Chopper's health you have to deal with other people's judgment," one person posted.
"You do not need to explain or justify anything to anyone," posted another. "You are his dad and you know your boy."