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Help K-9 Keeto Walk Again

$16,555 of $16,000 goal

Raised by 358 people in 1 month
Help K-9 Keeto walk again. 

My partner is in need of costly veterinary treatment.

Our Story:

Keeto is a recently retired K-9 from the Norwich, CT Police Department. Keeto came to me in 2012 and we served as a team through the best years of our lives. Talented, hard working and loyal; he was the perfect partner. He helped everywhere he went. He protected officers, found people’s missing children and family members, got some guns off the street, lots of violent criminals behind bars, and saved me from physical danger on more than one occasion. More importantly, like any good cop, Keeto was a good citizen. He attended city events, entertained and educated kids and community groups about animals and policing. Working midnights and living together, we shared more time than some of the luckiest families get with one another. Keeto became more than a partner or pet. He was and is my equal, my role model and literal best friend. He’s seen me through the major events of my life. Meeting/ marrying my wife, buying our first home, getting promoted and having a child. Words can’t express my admiration for him; I could go on for days. To make it short, my son’s middle name is Keeto. January 11th of this year, Keeto retired. As is customary, the City transferred ownership, all liability and financial responsibility to me. I was prepared for some expense and extra care as will happen with any older dog (he had just turned 9). He came home to me for what we believed would be his happy, well earned retirement.10202189_1533221159791686_r.jpeg

Two weeks ago, Keeto seemed lethargic. I had been working a fair bit of overtime, and thought he was just in need of some extra attention. We went in the yard to do some work together. He gave a loud yelp as soon as he left his front feet. Within an hour, Keeto began to lose coordination in his back legs. I rushed him to the emergency vet in our area. The vet told us the issue was spinal, but it would be impossible to know the cause without an MRI (which run about $3,000).  He prescribed meds and advised low activity and confinement for a few weeks. By the next morning, Keeto lost all function and feeling in the back half of his body. We scheduled the MRI. Keeto stabilized; getting no worse, but no better. After some long emotional days of run-around, I was told surgery was a risky option with little likelihood of benefit. I was distraught to find out he would never walk again; but satisfied knowing he could live out a happy life with a cart. I had seen and heard of plenty of dogs living happy functional lives with their “new normal”, able to play and enjoy their remaining years. It would mean lots of work, manually expressing his bladder and bowel, late night cleanings and the inability to leave him at home for more than a couple hours.  We are partners. I owe him the work.
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Things changed this week. We were getting ready to go to the specialist so we could fit Keeto for his wheels, when I thought I saw his back leg move on it’s own. While helping him with his business in the yard, his tail appeared to sway. My wife and I concluded it was probably consequence of the way he gets around on only his front paws. When I got to the specialist, she saw it too. She told me his MRI showed a slipped disc and massive hemorrhage pressing on his spine. The odds had been low he would ever regain any motor function prior to this.  Now she said Keeto can and will likely walk again with enough medication, physical therapy and follow through. These things will cost. He will be able to go for a walk, to the bathroom on his own and play in the yard with my son and I. There are no other medical issues preventing him from living out the rest of his life. This is why I decided to swallow my pride and ask for help. 

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A fair amount of my friends and coworkers encouraged a go fund me from the beginning. I didn’t jump into it, partly because I thought a permanent resolution was imminent (the cart). I didn’t want to ask, if it was manageable on my own. I had settled on creating a fund for future Norwich K-9s in retirement, so the money would be there if they faced their own catastrophe. Now the vet bills are starting to pile up. Outside of the MRI, we’ve been to multiple appointments with several vets, which are hundreds of dollars each and we’re into specialists. 10202189_1533175137226517_r.jpeg

I’m humbly and respectfully requesting you’re help. If you’re part of the policing, K-9 or Norwich community. If you’re one of the many lives Keeto has passed through with some positive influence, or simply a dog lover; please consider donating to or sharing this fundraiser. All money will go directly to caring for Keeto and be managed by individuals within my department. Anything above or leftover will be set aside for current and future K-9s, to ensure they have all the training and medical care they need. Thank you on Keeto’s behalf for taking the time to donate, share or even just read his story.10202189_1533175083253714_r.jpeg
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Keeto update for those that are following. He’s doing great and moving around a lot more over the last few days. He seems to have a ton of power in his back legs but very limited coordination and not much stamina. I feel guilty because it makes me laugh when he first gets up in the morning and isn’t regulating his strength. He winds up kicking his whole back end higher than his front for the first few steps. It makes him look like a deer when they run away.
He’s happy as could be to run around in his help em up harness so long as I am helping balance his hips.
This sounds small, but it means bathroom breaks are really easy for the both of us now and the harness can stay on for longer periods of time.
I’d say I haven’t updated because things have been chaotic, but it’s the wrong word. Things have been incredibly busy, but orderly.
We intend to shut down the fundraising portion of this page shortly, but keep it active for anyone who wants to follow Keeto’s progress. I also want to be able to look back at this in the future. People have been so kind with their well wishes and suggestions. It will be a nice reminder down the road, of how many good people there actually are.
Standing all on his own!!!!!!
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I used to present a problem I was wrestling with to my older audiences for K9 demonstration. I would show some bite work drills and talk about drives. I’ll spare you the extraneous detail since this isn’t a demo. By the end we discuss “fight drive”. This is when a K9 has a deep enough understanding of the training to enjoy the bite they are on and think of it as one of the games they play. These dogs don’t wine, or thrash or get scared during a bite. They lock on to a single spot and work with their whole body to take the decoy down. It’s a good thing because the dog is acting with certainty, not hesitation. It is more effective and causes less injury to a person they need to bring under control. It makes for a clearer mind and faster release when the time comes. The dog isn’t stressed. This is where the problem was for me. Instilling a “fight drive” is kind of like lying to your dog. It’s saying “This is a game. The person playing with you likes this. This is fun and we will play after.” The fact is, by the time a dog needs to make a real world apprehension, it is not a game, the person doesn’t like it and it is dangerous. Nevertheless, the dog likes it, and we play after.
There is a trade off for this predicament. The trade off is the why. These dogs live their best life. They exercise all the instincts built into their bloodline. They sniff out people and bring them to safety. They defend their pack from predators. They do so joyously and unwittingly in greater benefit to society. They spend 24/7 with their person, while other dogs need to stay home sometimes. I think it’s a fair trade. As cops, we choose to make the same trade (benefit to society and personal meaning for danger). As K9s they have the choice made for them. This is the “best for him” choice I didn’t have trouble with. I was sure by the time I retired Keeto, I had a handle on “just you and the dog” and the whys behind our choices.

The difficult “best for him” choice came with this injury. I thought I had a good grasp of the whys until it did. When I carried him into the vet unable to walk for his MRI, I was presented with options and froze. Less than 50% chance to walk again with surgery. Surgery may do more harm than good. Cart dogs are in pain (only one of the vets said this, but it haunted me for some time). I said I had to at least do the MRI before I made any serious decisions. Until then, he never seemed to be tormented or distressed by the injury. They allowed me to carry him to the back where he would await his anesthesia and subsequent testing. He wouldn’t let me walk away. He tried desperately to shuffle out of the kennel on just his front paws, panting and whining frantically. I started questioning myself and my why.
“Was I keeping the decision to just me and the dog?”
“Was it now necessarily about more than that because of the long term effects on home life?” “Was I going through with this for me or him?”
“Was I prolonging suffering and making his last few days stressful for selfish reasons?”
“Were my doubts about going straight to surgery because of the cost or did I hate the idea of forcing him into a painful process without guarantee of results?”

In that moment, seeing his panic, I broke down. I very nearly turned to the vet and said “I can’t do this to him, just put him down.” After a few minutes inside the kennel with him, I managed to close the door, and make the vet guarantee she would not put him down unless I was in the room with him. I realize how absurd that sounds, and it was.

When we made it back to the car my wife talked me down. She’s not a wealth of animal knowledge, but she’s great in any crisis. She let me freak out about how no one would take him for the MRI, and how I didn’t trust the vet (again ridiculous). Then she helped me resolve, that if he needed to be put down, we could do it at home where he was relaxed and with me. It was a few hours before we would get called to say the test was done. In between, I called my mother. She has a crazy amount of animal illness experience. She once kept a dog with “terminal” cancer happy and alive so long that the cancer went away (a story for another day). She talked some sense into me, assured me if he wasn’t suffering then I was right to keep going, and reminded me Keeto’s fate rested with me regardless of what this one vet said. And she reiterated the why. You’re safe as long as you’re doing what is best for him.

I’m getting off topic. You’re all obviously aware of the ending. We brought him home. He wasn’t suffering and we decided to soldier on. I started looking for Keeto’s newest lesson and thought I found it. We decided on a cart. I thought and even argued to a friend I would strengthen my commitment, discipline and follow through by shouldering the work and the bills, which now had an end in sight. It wasn’t long before there were new developments and an uncertain, but likely better future where Keeto may walk again. I felt some shame and regret when I started the GoFundMe. Like I was booting the aforementioned lesson away, by asking for help. I realized shortly after, Keeto wasn’t giving me a redundant chance at hard work this time, though plenty of that would result.

He and I were immediately exposed to more love and support from my family, department, community and total strangers than I’ve experience in a decade of law enforcement. After an entire K9 career and half a policing career, it was clear “just me and the dog” was not the full answer. It’s needs to be true within the moment a choice is made. It’s on us to make what we believe is the best decision, but we are not alone.

It’s remarkable how many people close to me have said this fundraiser has “restored my faith in humanity”. They use those exact words. Most of the people who said this to me are involved in public service. I think the support lifts the same weight for them. We, as cops, so often feel we are making the difficult decisions alone. Cops know, undoubtedly, we have to make decisions we can live with, regardless of the inevitable criticism. Not all of them can be perfect, especially once hindsight is applied. Through Keeto and my interactions with everyone here, I think I’m understanding. We make those decisions alone, in the moment; we don’t endure these decisions alone. Real and meaningful support is there, when things get difficult, so long as you are willing to ask. A strong silent community is standing in the background ready to help and support us so long as our decisions have a good why behind them.

I just want to say thank you again, and apologize for the delay in updating. I get absolutely sick of myself while I’m writing these sometimes. There’s a page and a half of less organized nonsense below this I’m not putting up because it got so off track. If you got bored, I hope you scrolled down to see this great picture of Keeto on the water treadmill:
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Apparently it needs three parts? Should be a hint it’s too long: I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking over the whole K9 experience as of late. I’m finding myself in awe of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I’ve only just come to realize, I may have learned them in the wrong order. I learned them from the outside in. I learned the whats then the hows and eventually arrived at some whys. I thought I knew what I was getting into when I started K9. My father had always told me to “work from the inside out”. I understood that to be finding my passion and driving toward it or searching for meaning first and worrying about the physical results later. I still think that is correct, but my understanding was incomplete (and I’m sure still is).
I had some background in training and knew the basic path to training any dog. “Firm, fair, consistent praise and correction.” It’s just you and the dog. I learned to train from my mother and this is the way she always said it. This seemed to hold true for people in her life too. She was consistent in acknowledging and nurturing our good behaviors as kids. She would correct the bad ones and she let us move on from them when they were over. I had this what down when I started training. It took me a while, and paying closer attention to her exact articulation to understand the how.

What do we do? Provide firm, fair, consistent praise and correction. How? “With equal measures of love and discipline”. This phrase echoes in my head during so many aspects of my interactions with the important people in my life now. So far, I think this what and how are a decent roadmap for dealing with most everyone in my life. She always drilled that the praise was more important of the two. Though I sometimes fail, I try to tell people in my life the things I like about them. I make an effort to “correct” behavior in people close to me, or when I’m directly involved. Not to say I attempt to train them, but I give the same feedback I know I would want from someone in my life. This can be more difficult than it sounds. It’s embarrassing to connect with people on a sincere personal level, especially with others around. But, that interaction is just about you and them.

The why is the most important part which I think parents can relate to. The why behind all of this is about helping them achieve their best life and reach their own potential. The scary part, is when you realize what is their best life may not coincide with your vision or happiness or how it reflects on you. Ego really gets in the way of this. The same way onlookers can shy a handler from being over the top and silly in praising their dog, or correct too hard because they look foolish when the dog doesn’t look sharp. Again, each instance is easy if you make it about just you and the dog.
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I’ll give the updates up front for those who arelooking for the facts. There’s nothing wrong with just the facts by the way. If we all became invested on a personal level for each cause we participated in; we would run out of mental space to get onto the next thing. So here’s the update:
Keeto started physical therapy yesterday with Wizard of Paws. He had prolonged laser therapy to combat inflammation and pain. He walked on a submerged treadmill for about 10 minutes. We have some pictures from the treadmill. I wish I got some pictures of laser therapy, because he wore sunglasses for the first half. We also got him a nicer full body harness so he can walk better with assistance. They also gave us some exercises to do at home. The effectiveness of the treatment was immediately apparent. He spent a decent chunk of the day standing on his own. There was even a point when he regained his own balance as he started to tip. I’m excited to have the new issue of trying to slow him down all the time. As far as the fundraiser goes, we surpassed the goal quickly after the WFSB news story aired. I’m going to up the goal again. A friend is going to help set up a non-profit for the excess funds to go into, and next time around it will be waiting for the handler who needs it. Be forewarned, save for the picture, the rest of this is more rambling. I thought I would be better organized by now, since I’ve had an extra day to think about it. It’s not what I would like it to be. I decided to post any way because I think it’s therapeutic to attempt to organize my disorganized thoughts. I also think it’s important to be open and honest with the people who shared their stories and experiences with me. I should say nothing below represents any law enforcement, K9 or department view or
opinion other than my own. Due to length it will be in a follow up post.
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$16,555 of $16,000 goal

Raised by 358 people in 1 month
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