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Police dog OK after surgery
By LaNia Coleman, The Saginaw News, February 6, 2004

Rookie will get to sleep in his own bed tonight. Saginaw's celebrated police dog, who helped search for victims of the 9/11 World Trade Center terror attacks, is recovering from surgery to remove a cancerous growth in his jaw. Specialists at an undisclosed Detroit-area animal hospital performed the procedure Thursday.

"They think they got all of the cancer," said his handler, Saginaw Police Officer Joaquin Guerrero. "We'll know more (about Rookie's prognosis) when we pick him up (today)."

The 8-year-old German shepherd was to have had the procedure Wednesday. When veterinary staffers decided to do more tests, however, they pushed the surgery to Thursday morning.

"It was a rough day," Guerrero said. "When I took his badge off of him, I broke down. That's when it really hit me and shook me right up. I lost it.

"Then he didn't want to leave with (the veterinary assistants). They were trying to pull him, and he was just standing there looking at me. I pointed down the hall and told him he had to go, and he turned right around and walked away with them."

Specialists in Detroit and Washington, D.C., have treated Rookie since his ordeal began after veterinarians in Saginaw discovered the growth during a routine teeth cleaning in November.

The experts have said they don't know if exposure to toxins at Ground Zero predicated Rookie's condition, Guerrero has said. So far, Rookie is the only Ground Zero search dog to develop a life-threatening illness.

The Iams dog food company, which is sponsoring a study of the search dogs, pledged to pay a portion of the costs for Rookie's surgery. Guerrero still does not know the final cost.

He said donations and get-well cards have begun arriving, but he has no idea how many there are or what is in them. The city has agreed to pay part of the costs as well.

"Everybody is pitching in here," he said. "We're trying to cut the bill down as much as we can. This is the community's dog. This isn't the end for Rookie. This is just the beginning for him."

Anyone wishing to make a tax-deductible contribution may send a check to Precinct 131 at PO Box 5446, Saginaw, MI 48603.

LaNia Coleman covers law enforcement for The Saginaw News. You may reach her at 776-9690.


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