Crippling disease forcing retirement for Armstrong K-9 Klif
Armstrong County K-9 Officer Klif will retire within three months because veterinarians discovered he has a degenerative disease in his spine.
Tests at the Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center in McCandless revealed that the 8-year-old German shepherd has canine degenerative myelopathy, an incurable and progressively crippling condition similar to Lou Gehrig's disease in humans.
“It's always difficult to see your partner retire under any circumstance,” said his handler, Detective Mark Heider. “You're always thinking we've got one more month, one more week, or even one more day. But the reality is Klif has a working life, which is now controlled by this disease.”
During the next three months, doctors believe the disease will weaken his hind legs to the point he will no longer be able to work. Heider took Klif to the doctors in April when Klif came up lame and he thought the dog had damaged several discs in his back.
Although doctors discovered several damaged discs, the disease is what led to weakness in his back legs.
There are no cures for the disease, and Klif's only treatment will be exercise, physical therapy and supplements, said Edward MacKillop, a neurologist and neurosurgeon at the Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center.
Typically, it takes the disease about eight to 10 months to paralyze a dog and can eventually cause problems with brain functions, MacKillop said.
“The sad answer is there isn't much that can be done for Klif,” MacKillop said. “There's no surgical or drug treatment available, and there's also no telling how quickly the disease will spread.”
The county's only K-9 officer will continue working until retirement but will be limited to odor detection searches in relatively flat areas. He won't be able to handle slippery or rugged surfaces and is prohibited from any kind of labor-intensive patrols, Heider said.
“It all depends on how he is when we need him,” Heider said. “Klif is going to have his good days and his bad days. We just have to be patient and let him take it at his own pace.”
Heider expects Klif to live the rest of his life at his home in Sarver. His life expectancy hinges on how quickly the disease spreads.
“We're not there, but all I can say is we'll cross that bridge whenever we come to it,” Heider said. “But making sure he has a good quality of life is going to be the main focus.”
In April, Heider started the Armstrong County DA K-9 Fund at Farmers & Merchant Bank to collect donations to cover Klif's medical bills, which are expected to exceed $5,500.
The fund is now being used for Klif's ongoing treatments and possibly to purchase, train and equip another K-9 officer for the county. Officials plan to apply for grant to get a new dog, Heider said. Klif was purchased by the county six years ago with a Department of Homeland Security grant.
“The idea of taking Klif off the street is not good, but I do take comfort knowing he was able to work for six years,” Heider said. “It's hard to think about, but no matter what, we need to have a dog in Armstrong County.”
Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Police: Escaped Armstrong County inmate armed, dangerous homicide suspect
- Worker injured when excavator backs over him in Kittanning
- Paradise Park Rib Fest reviving legendary stage in Cowansville
- 44th Folk Festival off to bustling start in Kittanning
- Kittanning road work a dusty backdrop to sidewalk sales, festival
- NLRB considering union’s latest complaint against ACMH Hospital in East Franklin
- Explosive second day at Camp Cadet in Manor
- South Buffalo airport gets Armstrong County funding for study
- Armstrong reaches out for opinions about how to use closed schools
- Float for non-motorized craft organized on Allegheny River
- Ownerless emu finds ‘buddy’ at new Greensburg home