by Pierrette J. Shields
Longmont Times Call
Longmont-Surgery was the easy part for retired Longmont Police K-9 Izzy.
A one-hour spinal surgery Thursday morning cleared the way for weeks of physical therapy aimed at getting him back on his paws, according to Matt Rooney, the veterinarian who surgically corrected a ruptured disc the dog suffered while fighting with a suspect in April 2007.
"The presence of that disc put constant pressure on the spine, causing pretty much constant pain and decreased neurologic function," Rooney said, explaining that the injury made it difficult for Izzy to use his hind legs.
"He was very weak and wobbly," Rooney said.
Detective Bruce Vaughan, Izzy's handler, took the dog to the vet and found out the surgery would cost $6,000. Because Izzy was retired, his care was no longer subsidized by the police department. Vaughn asked for community help early last week to help pay the bill.
The story of the dog's plight was circulated widely on the internet, the Longmont Fraternal Order of Police opened a fund with $500 in seed money, and within a week, the Flatirons Kennel Club voted to foot the entire bill. The Izzy foundation has more than $11,000; any money beyond the cost of Izzy's surgery and recovery will be dedicated to the needs of other police dogs in Colorado.
"I keep saying 'Wow,'" Vaughan said. "I keep rubbing my head in amazement."
Izzy served as a Longmont police dog for nine years and amassed an impressive record of arrests. in 2006, the dog conducted 24 narcotics searches and 11 building searches, provided cover for officers 50 times, participated in 17 felony arrests, participated in four demonstrations and bit a suspect.
he retired shortly after he was injured in April 2007 while helping arrest a man who had dodged police for two weeks, leading officers on three separate chases in that time.
Rooney said Izzy did not show much pain, although the pressure of the ruptured disc on his spinal cord should have been excrutiating.
"He has been functioning well, and he just looks up at his partner and just does what he says and never complained and never whined," Rooney said.
Vaughan said Thursday that Izzy does not do well with anesthesia and seemed angry as he started to wake up after the procedure.
"He is not a dog that likes to be vulnerable, so he kind of fights," Vaughan said.
The dog is likely to remain at the veterinary hospital for several days before he goes home for two weeks of recovery. After that, he will begin physical therapy aimed at returning most or all of the function in his hind legs.
Rooney said therapy will include underwater treadmills, along with acupuncture and therapeutic ultrasound for pain management. Izzy's prognosis is good to fair, Rooney said.
"We're going to be very aggressive with physical therapy with him," Rooney said. "We're going to make him work really hard."