He nabbed car thieves, intimidated juveniles looking for trouble, and helped secure local sites for presidential candidates
Barney, Northwood’s crime-fighting police dog, dodged a bullet last year when some residents stepped in to donate funds for his continued service after the city cut the K-9 from the budget due to a poor economy.
But in August, not even residents could help Barney avoid his fiercest foe to date: cancer. The city recently announced that Barney, purchased by a Homeland Security Grant six-and-a-half years ago, was retiring for gooddue to health reasons.
Patrolman Fred Genzman, who was Barney’s handler, said he had no clue Barney
|Patrolman Fred Genzman
with Barney. (Press photo
by Ken Grosjean)
was ill when the seven-and-a-half-year old shepherd started having training issues a few months ago. As part of his K-9 certification test taken every two years, Barney is required to detect explosive odors, which he always did with flying colors. This summer, he uncharacteristically missed a few times, said Genzman..
“He’s never had problems like this before,” said Genzman. “We tried to fix it. We went to Cleveland, talked to different handlers and trainers. We just couldn’t pinpoint the problem,” he said.
As a last resort, Genzman took Barney to a veterinarian for a checkup.“Barney was a bit antsy when he had his hips manipulated. So the vet got x-rays, thinking hip dysplasia might be bothering him. Then the vet x-rayed Barney’s spleen. Apparently, shepherds are very prone to getting some kind of cysts on their spleen. When the results came back, the hips were fine. But there was a spot on his spleen,” said Genzman. “The vet wanted to keep an eye on it, and we went back a month later.”
Genzman continued to work with Barney, who was still having training problems.
“When we went back, they did another x-ray, and the spot grew 50 percent larger. The vet said he really couldn’t say it was cancer, but if he had to guess, it was the type of cancer shepherds are prone to get. So we decided to have his spleen removed, which was major abdominal surgery. He was doing fine, started coming back around. Then the results came back. Barney has an aggressive form of cancer. He has a very short time to live. Just months, if he’s lucky.”
Ironically, the veterinarian did not think the illness was causing Barney’s training issues, said Genzman.
Barney appears to be strong and healthy, despite the dire prognosis. Since retiring, he is now the family dog, with Genzman, his wife and two children keeping him company.
Genzman is taking it hard.
“It’s pretty rough. He looks so happy, but I know what’s going to happen. I couldn’t ask for a better dog. Hands down – training, work, family – everything. He’s one of the perfect dogs. Good dogs are hard to find, harder to lose them,” he said.
Genzman decided to forgo treatment for Barney, which would have included participation in a clinical study at Ohio State University, because it would only briefly extend his life.
“He’d have to do chemotherapy, which the vet said would not do anything for him. Plus, he would be on an experimental drug, and they would poke and prod him. Is it worth it for two more months? I think we’re just going to allow him to live his life out comfortably at home. We’re just going to enjoy him while we can.”
Genzman said he doubts he will ever be a handler again because of the city’s budget problems. Still, it was a great gig, he said.
“There’s a ton of advantages to it,” he said. “Best assignment I ever had. It was fun. I don’t regret one minute of it. I have a ton of memories – can’t take them away.”
Mayor Mark Stoner said Barney was effective in fighting crime and public relations.
“He was good for the city, and for public relations. There were a lot of K-9 demonstrations at school. Young kids could see how he worked, and how he was handled. That’s always a positive thing. Anytime you can get young people relating positively to a police officer, it’s a good thing,” said Stoner.