PD, short for Police Dog, was born to serve. As a Czechoslovakian shepherd, it came pretty naturally. He spent his first three years training to become a police service dog with a former K9 officer and police dog breeder from Fort Collins, Colo. Following this training, PD joined the Colorado Springs Police Department in 2010 to work as a tracking K9. With further training, PD received certification from the United States Police Canine Association in tracking. PD also trained to track on hard surfaces (pavement or concrete), which is extremely difficult to accomplish. He was the first and only CSPD K9 to be trained as a single purpose tracking dog.
When he was ready, PD partnered with K9 unit supervisor Scott. They worked together for over a year to locate missing persons, particularly elderly, and to search accident scenes. One very hot and dry summer day, PD located a lost elderly woman with dementia. Paramedics on the scene said that if PD hadn’t found her when he did, she would very likely have suffered heat related distress. It was one of the highlights of PD’s career.
Scott left the K9 unit in 2011 and PD partnered with a new K9 handler. In 2012, CSPD decided to retire PD’s position. When Scott learned of PD’s retirement, he jumped at the chance to bring PD back into his family. PD immediately fit in and quickly developed a genuine affection for his new furry siblings, Sunshine and Vegas, and for Scott’s wife, Tina.
According to Tina, PD’s transition into retirement was a little harder. “I could tell PD was a little sad when Scott left the house for work and he didn’t get to go,” said Tina.
Eventually, PD settled in and started enjoying retirement, but continued his love of balls, his preferred training reward from his days as a K9. “He loves balls more than food treats,” said Scott.
“We’ve had many dogs,” said Tina. “PD is truly the sweetest, most gentle dog we’ve ever known.”
In late May 2018, Scott was out of town and Tina noticed that PD wasn’t quite himself. Initially, Tina thought PD just missed Scott. After a few days, Tina sat down to give PD some extra love and as she was petting him, she noticed an unusual hard spot on his belly. Concerned, Tina made an appointment with their veterinarian, who performed an X-ray and discovered a very large tumor on PD’s spleen. The tumor needed to be removed before it ruptured. Following surgery, PD’s veterinarian sent the tumor to Colorado State University pathology for analysis.
A few days later, Tina and Scott received the call: PD had cancer.
PD was diagnosed with stage I canine hemangiosarcoma, a cancerous tumor developed from the cells lining blood vessels. It can occur in several locations, but the spleen is the most common site. They turned to the internet to search for ways to help PD as a way of coping with the difficult news. During one of the research sessions, they learned about a clinical trial at CSU’s Flint Animal Cancer Centerdesigned for dogs with hemangiosarcoma. They reached out to the team for more information, and brought PD to the cancer center for evaluation at the end of June.
“We had to leave PD for two nights and that was hard,” said Tina. “We were so grateful that the staff took a picture of him the first night and sent it to us and then another one the next day. We could tell PD was getting great care and the staff really loved him.”
After the assessment, Tina and Scott learned that PD was eligible for the trial, but had to make a quick decision.
“PD’s surgery was June 8 and we visited CSU on June 27,” said Tina. “To be part of the study, dogs had to be less than three weeks post-surgery. We had to make a quick decision, but honestly, it was an easy decision to make.”
PD started the VDC-597 for Treatment of Canine Splenic Hemangiosarcoma clinical trial immediately. The median survival time for dogs diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma following surgery to remove the spleen combined with chemotherapy is a disappointing five to seven months. As a result, veterinary oncologists and scientists are searching for better ways to treat this form of canine cancer. One of the new treatment possibilities is an oral agent called VDC-597, which has demonstrated antitumor and antimetastatic activities in human and mouse cancer models as well as canine hemangiosarcoma cell lines.
“However this works out, the most important thing is that PD is happy,” said Tina. “And PD is happy, so we’re happy.”
As part of the trial protocol, PD visits the Flint Animal Cancer Center once per week for the first two weeks of treatment. Appointments are then every two weeks for two months. After that, PD visits every six weeks for rechecks.
“Anything we can do to help PD, to help other dogs, and maybe even people, we’re in,” said Tina.
After six weeks of treatment, PD is doing well and has no evidence of metastasis!
“This experience, PD’s cancer, this clinical trial, is just another way that PD is working to serve,” said Tina. “If he had a choice, I know that he would choose to help other dogs and people with cancer. That’s just who he is.”