Piper the airport dog loses year-long battle to prostate cancer

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Piper the airport dog, who went viral on social media last year for his work protecting planes from bird strikes in Michigan, has died. He was 9 years old. 

The Border Collie's partner, Brian Edwards, paid tribute to Piper on Instagram Wednesday, explaining his beloved four-legged friend succumbed to a year-long battle with prostate cancer. 

"It is with the ultimate sadness I must report the passing of my best friend and love of my life," Edwards wrote. "He fought valiantly, and we did everything we could, but sometimes life just has to take its course."

Edwards' post included a photo of an American flag that was given to him by members of a Coast Guard unit that Piper once helped to protect. 

Friends, . It is with the ultimate sadness I must report the passing of my best friend and love of my life. . Piper passed away tonight peacefully in my arms after fighting a year-long battle with prostate cancer. He fought valiantly, and we did everything we could, but sometimes life just has to take its course. . Today, Piper enjoyed a pain-free day, filled with love from family and friends, mostly his fellow airport employees. He played soccer, got some much deserved butt scratches and yes, he chased away one last snowy owl as he sailed into the night. . As I hope was plainly evident, we are grateful. Grateful to have done what we loved for three years and had a whole hell of a lot of fun doing it. Mostly though, we're grateful for all of your support. It's what's really helped us through the dark days. . As we leave you tonight, know that Piper is in a better place. I only ask for your patience as I take time to tend to my shattered heart. . Lastly, as a final act of true class, the flag you see here flew today at @uscg Air Station Traverse City and was taken down, folded and presented to us and a token of their love. Please join me in thanking the men and women, past and present, of Air Station Traverse City for their awesomeness. Piper and I are forever in your debt. . With love, . Brian & Piper

A post shared by K-9 Piper (@airportk9) on

"Please join me in thanking the men and women, past and present, of Air Station Traverse City for their awesomeness," he continued. "Piper and I are forever in your debt."

Piper became a viral sensation on social media for his sense of style while working on the airport's tarmac. For three years, he sported goggles and a uniform while protecting aircraft from birds and other wildlife. 

"I've been in a number of airports, they usually shotgun blanks," Coast Guard Pilot Lt. Commander Charlie Wilson told CBS News transportation correspondent Kris Van Cleave in 2016. "Birds get used to that, they know, hey, it's just a sound, nothing's going to happen, but when you deploy a dog that actually chases after them and they have that fight or flight instinct, they go running, and they remember that."  

Prior to his death, the wildlife control canine amassed more than 95,000 followers on Instagram.