|UCPD’s canine drug patrol team back on duty |
|Posted: Monday, May 6, 2013 9:11 pm |
| By CHRIS MENEES |
Seven-year police veteran Brok is more than just a partner to Union City police Cpl. Brandon Adams.
He’s become a part of his family.
So that made it all the more gut-wrenching when Adams found out his partner had cancer.
But after losing one leg, Brok has barely slowed down and is back on duty.
Brok is an 8-year-old German Shepherd trained specifically for drug detection. He started work with the Union City Police Department on July 4, 2006, with Adams as his handler. (See related photo, Page 2.)
He also lives with Adams and his wife, their daughter and two pet dogs.
Part of being a drug detection dog’s handler is knowing the dog and recognizing any changes in the animal. Adams first knew something was amiss when he felt a small lump inside Brok’s back left leg and noticed a change in his stance.
“I knew something wasn’t right,” he said.
He feared Brok was suffering from a torn ACL and took him to see veterinarian Dr. Betsy McCune at Reelfoot Animal Hospital. He said a torn ACL would have meant a difficult recovery for the dog and “that was what I didn’t want to hear.”
Brok was given an anti-inflammatory and pain medication and Adams was to bring him back in two weeks.
However, in that two weeks, the lump grew to the size of a walnut.
When Brok returned to the animal hospital with Adams and 10-year-old daughter Madison, the veterinarian took X-rays and came back with a grim diagnosis — cancer in the dog’s left hind leg.
“I knew it wasn’t good when (the veterinarian) came back,” Adams said. “And she brought us in there, got me a bottle of water, told me to sit down. I knew it wasn’t going to be good. And she said, just through the X-rays, it appeared to be bone cancer.”
A biopsy confirmed the diagnosis about a week later, with the results being positive for osteosarcoma.
“I came home, brought (Madison) home with me, and once they told me that it was for sure (cancer), just kind of broke down,” Adams said. “I did some reading about it. Osteosarcoma was not good, it was not a good thing.”
Brok was scheduled for surgery on April 15.
Adams said the dog’s veterinarian studies lymphoma and she also contacted some colleagues who study different types of cancer. They had all studied the dog’s results and reported the cancer had not crossed the joint — meaning there was no reason to remove the entire leg to the hip.
“Once all his hair grows back, you probably — unless you’re paying attention to see there’s only three legs there — you probably won’t know it,” Adams said.
Adams said 90 percent of dogs diagnosed with Brok’s type of cancer already have it in their lungs and he feared there would be even more bad news following Brok’s surgery. Chest X-rays were done to see if the cancer had spread.
In the meantime, Adams prepared himself for the worst.
“Nothing else had gone my way, so I figured this wouldn’t either,” Adams said. “So I’d already made plans to go ahead and have him put down if it was in his lungs. If it had been in his lungs, he’d have had less than three months to live and they had already said it would be a painful death.”
With family by his side, Adams instead received the good news that the cancer was not in Brok’s lungs.
“And what was said from then on, I don’t remember. I was just a blubber bag,” Adams said. “It just floored me. Nothing had gone my way, and that did.”
With no cancer in the lungs, Brok had his leg removed as planned on April 15. He spent the night at the animal hospital and Adams retrieved him on April 16.
“When they opened the door, he ran and just buried his head in my chest — just like he came to give me a hug,” Adams said.
He said his daughter was somewhat startled to see Brok’s fur shaved and one leg missing, but the dog quickly let the family know he was ready to go.
“After he paraded around the room, showed everybody ‘Hey, I’m still here,’ he was ready to go,” Adams said. “I’d taken the police car down there and when I opened the door, he jumped in the car.”
Adams took off work the week of the surgery and returned to police duty on April 20 with Brok by his side.
“He has not missed a day yet,” Adams said of his partner.
He explained he took off work the days following the surgery so Brok wouldn’t see him get dressed and go to work without him.
“It’s more stressful on him to see me get dressed and leave without him,” Adams said. “If he sees my uniform, he wants to go. If he hears the car keys, he wants to go. … He feels like if I leave and get in the police car, he’d better be going, too.”
Brok did not undergo any post-surgery rehabilitation since the veterinarian didn’t want to over-exert him. The only ill effect was some swelling he developed about five days after surgery as the result of playing and chasing another dog.
As a precaution, Brok will undergo two or possibly three rounds of chemotherapy, beginning with a first treatment today.
“That’s simply if any of the cancer cells made it to the rest of his body, they want to go ahead and get those,” Adams said. “It’s just preventive.”
He said chemotherapy does not have the same effect on dogs as it does on humans. Brok will not lose his hair and the worst side effect could be some vomiting.
Brok will do his chemotherapy early in the mornings and Adams will pick him up when he goes on duty in the afternoon after the dog is observed for a few hours for any effects. The veterinarian will also do a blood count to check the dog’s white blood cells during the treatment period.
Adams is ecstatic to have Brok back by his side for what he hopes will be many more years of patrolling together. Brok has enjoyed considerable success in drug-related arrests over the years.
“We’re glad to have him,” said Adams, a 10-year veteran of the police department.
Brok is funded through the police department’s drug fund and Adams said the goal was to pay for the dog the first year he was on the street — a goal which was accomplished.
As Adams prepared for another day on the streets with his canine partner, he shared with The Messenger what an important role Brok plays in both his personal and professional lives.
“Of course, that was devastating news to hear he had cancer,” he said. “He’s my partner. He’s been with me for seven years he’s been on the street. I’m with him more than I am my own family. I mean, he’s with me eight hours a day and if I’m here at home, he’s with me. If I leave the house, he waits on me to come back — so he’s a big, big part of my life.”
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 5.6.13