GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Gulfport Police Department got a well-deserved thank you on Wednesday as part of National Police Week.
Among those in the spotlight at the Handsboro Baptist Church celebration: Patrol Officer Mike Hauler, whose small act on Tuesday morning earned him big-time praise.
A social media frenzy was created when a photograph was posted showing Hauler bending over, cradling kitten struck by a car. He stopped traffic on U.S. 49 near downtown in an attempt to get it help.
But despite his efforts, the kitten later died.
"I was just really trying to save that cat's life," Hauler said. "I mean, I'm a huge animal lover. I hated to see it happen."
Hauler says he's not the only officer who makes similar efforts.
"It's something we don't even really think that much about," Hauler said. "It's such a common practice. It's nice to see that our deeds don't go unnoticed."
Annie Glass Grinnell, who took the photo and posted it, says she wasn't surprised the picture hit big.
"I'm glad it did, because I really wanted them to see that from this gentleman. I wanted them to see that from our Gulfport Police Department, and I also wanted to see that in the police force itself," Grinnell said. "In today's world, it's nice to see such a wonderful, positive thing."
It makes appreciation events even more special. Handsboro Baptist Church has been hosting the police appreciation event for four years. Organizers say they get as much as they give.
"We get so much because we are able to say thank you and then for them to say, 'Oh, wow,' that means so much that somebody took their time and their resources to say thank us'," said organizer Debbie Nicholson. "That's satisfaction enough for us."
Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania noted, "We are so fortunate where we police along the Gulf Coast. I think this just exemplifies how our community treats us, and we should be thankful for that."