He was a champion for our four-legged friends, fighting for those with no voice. Now dozens are mourning the loss of George Bengal after a brave battle with terminal cancer. We're saying "thank you" to George.
For more than 20 years, if there was an animal cruelty story in the city, the man who was always there fighting for justice for the animals was George Bengal.
The Pennsylvania SPCA posted a touching message on their Facebook page inviting the public to share their thoughts with the hashtag #thankyougeorge .
The response has been overwhelming. People feel like they know him just by seeing him on TV.
For his co-workers, it's been a lot harder. They threw him a party last week and there were tears on all sides.
George and Carole Bengal welcomed FOX 29 into their home in May, even though their doctor had just told them the medical team could do no more.
But this is not about what could have been. It's about a life well-lived and about the promise of all that will spring from it.
Bengal's quest to protect animals from cruelty and bring their torturers to justice grabbed the national spotlight through two hit shows. He's been featured on Animal Planet and Nat Geo.
Awareness is the first step toward change. Bengal and his Humane Law Enforcement Team's battled against the scourge of dog fighting in the Philadelphia area thrust the barbaric blood sport onto the international stage.
"Some of these fights that went off, especially during that Nat Geo series were animals that were actually, one was from overseas where the fight was set up," Bengal explained. "They actually flew the animal here. The only way you do that is when you're at that high end, that's a million dollar fight."
In all, more than 50 dogs saved with dozens of arrests. Some of those criminals are still behind bars.
"We have countless stories about George, but one sticks out in my mind because he literally saved us," said FOX 29's Chris O'Connell.
The scene was a South Philly hoarder's home with hundreds of animals and FOX 29's Chris O'Connell was on live.
"They jumped in and protected us from a very violent person. He made sure we made it to the police station. He made sure we were uninjured," O'Connell explained. "He not only had a passion for helping animals but he also helped us as people and that's what makes him the guy he is."
Bengal's animal and people saving exploits have made one big impact on Philly's tough-guy journalists.
"I've seen him at everything from cockfighting rings to animal fighting rings. He's always an advocate for the community and for the animals,' said FOX 29's Dave Schratwieser "Everybody I know who's been around George for all these years knows what a top notch guy he is."
"Here's the influence of George Bengal. Here's the back of our truck and you can see it's loaded down with supplies because we often see strays," said FOX 29's Steve Keeley.
FOX 29's Steve Keeley is taking a page from Bengal's Humane Law Enforcement book summed up by the motto on their trucks "Help is on the Way."
"You'd think after being a cop for 20 years, that somebody would deservedly take it easy and rest a bit and maybe take up a hobby, but not George," Keeley said.
George Bengal's Humane Law Enforcement career began after he retired from the Philadelphia police force. And before that? Bengal served our nation in the Vietnam War. He was drafted in 1966 and was exposed to asbestos somewhere along the way.
"For this cancer to develop, from what I'm being told, it takes about 50 years from the time you're exposed to the time it's actually coming out in your system," Bengal said.
"50-years ago, you were serving our nation during the Vietnam Era,' FOX 29's Lucy Noland asked. George responded,"Yeah, that would have put me right in my military years.
Bengal's ringtone "Moves Like Mick Jagger" blared as his PSPCA family surprised him with a celebration his career and his dogged determination to stop animal cruelty."
"I ain't going to make this sound like a eulogy because my man's right there and he's still fighting. And also I already told you I'm getting married in 10 years and I'm going to need you to be my best man," Wayne Smith explained.
Smith launched right into a story about a big rooster raid at a known drug corner where police backed them up.
"Police pulls up. Me, Jason, George jumps out of the car. Some guy that's selling drugs takes off running. What does George do? Start chasing the guy who's selling the drugs," Smith said.
Bengal's right there in the trenches with his officers.
"You look to your side, he's going to be doing the same exact thing. So if I'm wrangling pit bulls, wrangling rooster, wrangling bulls, or whatever the case may be, he's standing right there next to you grabbing the animal, too, " Smith said.
From around the world; emails, texts and tweets have been pouring in thanking Bengal for all he's done for the voiceless.
"It's unbelievable. As his wife, I'm very proud. He's my hero. I've gotten to share him with the world."
But what the world doesn't know is that this fierce warrior in the fight against animal abuse also cuts a mean rug on the dance floor.
35 years ago, George and Carole met on the dance floor. Pretty much every Saturday since date night has also been dance night.
"When George learned of his illness and we learned the type of cancer that it is, as much as you're hopeful and all, we did go out to our favorite spot and we danced that night.," Carole explained. "And he said to me 'This will probably be the last time that we dance.' And it was. So we had it. Then I said to him, 'Our next dance will be in heaven.'"
Yet to countless animals George Bengal to this day is an angel on Earth. The PSPCA has just established the George Bengal Fund to prevent animal cruelty.
Georges' greatest wish is that his mission and his law enforcement team not only continues but grows.
The PSPCA has established The George Bengal Fund to End Animal Cruelty to carry on his mission of protecting animals and preventing cruelty throughout Pennsylvania.
George came to FOX 29's Good Day Philadelphia and opened up to Mike and Alex about his battle with terminal cancer. See the interview in the video player above.
The PSPCA honors George Bengal
George Bengal opens up about legacy and terminal cancer diagnosis
George Bengal : A hero for animals
The George Bengal Fund