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Houston police officer heralded for final moments with his police horse, Charlotte

A Houston officer is being heralded for his compassion toward a fallen police horse that later died from injuries sustained during a downtown traffic accident Thursday.

In a photo that went viral on social media in the days that followed, Officer D. Herrejon is seen lying next to the injured horse named Charlotte in the aftermath of the accident. With his arm around the neck of the horse who'd been knocked off her feet, Herrejon appears to be comforting the animal in her final moments.

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The Houston-based Animal Justice League posted the image on its Facebook page Friday. "We admire the heart & strength of this officer because as you know, when you lose an animal, to be with them during their last breath is a heartbreaking & tough thing to do," reads part of the AJL's caption. "Thank you to her for loving her partner & friend until the end. Our hearts go out to her & the HPD family."

Keese Smith, a Houston Police Department spokesman, told TODAY.com that the accident occurred Thursday at about 10:15 a.m. "The horse got spooked by something from behind, and when she spun around, she actually struck a cement truck," said Smith, who added that Herrejon, who'd been riding Charlotte, was taken to a local hospital as a precaution but sustained no serious injuries.

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As of late Tuesday afternoon, no charges had been filed against the truck driver. "The investigation is ongoing, but at this time it does not appear that the driver was at fault," Smith added.

The afternoon of the accident, the HPD's Facebook page posted a tribute to Charlotte, described as a 6-year-old Tennessee Walker from Oklahoma who thrived during her four years with the force.

"She passed her evaluation period with flying colors and was working the streets of Downtown Houston within a short time of being started under saddle," reads the caption. "She loved her job and was always ready to go to work putting bad guys in jail or giving nuzzles to children."

The Facebook tribute included four Charlotte photos, including one of her with Herrejon the day before her accident.

The bond between Mounted Patrol officers and their quadruped coworkers is a strong one, similar to that of cops and dogs in a K-9 unit, according to Smith.

RELATED: Hundreds mourn the death of police dog killed in line of duty

"You undergo a lot of training as a [mounted police] officer," he added. "You work with those horses on a daily basis. Those horses undergo a lot of training before they're put on the street, so there would be a bond. Those horses are those officers' partners."

Melinda Gleghorn, an Animal Justice League vice president, said the organization's president, Jennifer Graves, wrote the caption that accompanied the Facebook photo it published. Although neither could identify who took the photo in question, they were both moved by the moment that photographer captured.

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"I think animal lovers around the world can identify with the incredible bond between a human and their animal," Gleghorn told TODAY.com via the AJL's Facebook account. "We can all put ourselves in that place where one minute it's a beautiful and sunny day and the next minute a beloved companion is gone. The fact that [Charlotte] was a law enforcement horse was even more gut wrenching. She was a beautiful, loyal, and faithful partner. Our hearts went out to the officer and we felt his pain."

Follow TODAY.com writer Chris Serico on Twitter.

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