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Last prance: Horse named for Officer Michael Califano retires

Police horse "Mike," named in honor of fallen Nassau Officer Michael Califano, officially retired at a special ceremony in East Meadow on Monday. (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

Seven years ago Jackie Califano lost her husband, Nassau Police Officer Mike Califano, in the line of duty.

On Monday, she experienced another loss as she said goodbye to the service horse named in her husband's honor.

The teary-eyed widow, of Wantagh, and her family were joined by a dozen police officers, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Police Commissioner Patrick J. Ryder at a retirement ceremony in Eisenhower Park's mounted unit stable in East Meadow.

“It feels like another loss, you know?” said Califano.

“Mike,” the black Percheron-quarter horse mix posed for photos, took in the pomp-and-circumstance atmosphere and even seemed to strut a bit as officers gave their final salute. 

"I’m so glad that the Califano family has joined us in this very beautiful and moving ceremony," said Curran.

Michael Califano died when truck driver John Kaley fell asleep at the wheel and crashed his tow truck into a Nassau police car parked on the Long Island Expressway. Three months later the horse was acquired from Wayne Farms in Huntington and named "Mike" to honor Califano.

The horse made appearances at annual fundraisers held in honor of the fallen officer. Califano said she will miss the horse standing outside of the entrance of Maria Regina R.C. Church School in Seaford as people trailed in to honor her husband during the annual fundraiser. 

“It was such an honor when we found out it was supposed to be named after him,” she said, wiping away tears. “It’s tough to see him go.”

The 22-year-old horse was partnered with Officer Patrick Pierson during his six-year stay with the department. The lead horse was assigned to presidential debates in 2012 and 2016, Oyster Fest, funerals, President Donald Trump rallies and hundreds of details protecting the public, officials said.

“This horse was named after one of ours that made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Commissioner Patrick Ryder. “We must always remember those.”

The department has five other horses, boats and vehicles named after officers who have died in the line of duty.

"Mike" is the first equine retiree named for a fallen officer.  A Long Island family will adopt the horse following Monday’s ceremony.

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