Wrangler, service dog and police K9 who became a star on ‘Today,’ dies at 6 — rest in peace

It’s always heartbreaking when a pet passes away unexpectedly, especially when they are still relatively young. The only thing you can do is look back on the good times you had, and the impact your pet had during their time on earth.

Like Wrangler, a service dog who won hearts around the country after being featured on NBC’s Today as their first-ever “Puppy With a Purpose” and became a regular on hundreds of episodes.


Sadly, it was announced this week that Wrangler has passed away at the age of 6, from liver disease. But while he may be gone, those who knew him will remember the impact he had during his brief but incredible life.

“In his short 6 years, Wrangler did more than most humans,” Wrangler’s original handler Saxon Eastman wrote in an Instagram post. “He started a wave of national media coverage for guide and service dogs, he worked as a guide dog, and most importantly, he protected thousands of people everyday as a Connecticut State Police Explosives Detection K9.”

Wrangler came to national attention when he was just eight weeks old and appeared on Today. At the time, he was in training to be a guide dog with the New York nonprofit organization Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

During his training, Wrangler became a beloved fixture of the show for over a year, featured on segments and cuddling up with countless celebrity guests. According to Today, he appeared on 288 episodes of the show — and ate 5,760 treats. He even appeared in a Super Bowl commercial.

“Wrangler was the best co-worker and such a sweet boy,” Today producer Sandy Lee wrote on Twitter. He lit up the studio with joy and helped me through some tough work times.”

But in 2016, he said goodbye to his friends at the daytime show and moved on with his career in service.


According to Today, Wrangler spent a year as a guide dog before being accepted to the Connecticut State Police program, where he was trained to be a K9 police dog.

After graduating, he became part of the department’s detection dog program, specializing in explosive detection in the Mass Transit Unit alongside his partner, Trooper First Class Kevin Reed.


But after an incredible career, from brightening up people’s mornings and spreading the word about service dogs on the Today show to heroically keeping people safe on public transit, Wrangler passed away this week.

In her tribute, Eastman fondly remembered the times they shared together: “To me, Wrangler was my super early morning buddy. He had the most perfectly squishable neck rolls. He rarely caught the ball, but never stopped trying. He was one of the few Labs I know who wasn’t fickle with his love. And I know that my life would look very different today if he hadn’t been a part of it.”


And his old friends at Today dedicated a segment of their show to share the sad news and remember Wrangler’s impact on their show.

“Wrangler made my early mornings so much better, hopefully he did the same for you,” Carson Daily said. “And in his short life, Wrangler definitely made a world of difference for a lot of people.”

Rest in peace, Wrangler. You’re gone too soon, but it is clear you made a huge impact on so many people during your life.

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