Houston K9 officer loses leg but gains new lease on life
By REBECCA FIEDLER
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – T-Rex has worked as a Houston police K-9 since 2015, and it’s been a career full of accomplishment and excitement.
The Eagle reports he’s helped catch more than 100 criminal suspects and done explosives detection work at major events such as the 2017 Super Bowl and World Series baseball games.
But after his handler noticed he was moving a little slower, doctors found bone cancer. Then, on his last patrol call last month, he injured himself cornering a suspected burglar during a foot chase.
It hasn’t been an easy road lately for T-Rex, but Friday he underwent surgery at the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, where he lost a leg but gets an extension on life.
“These dogs are like your children,” T-Rex’s handler, Officer Paul Foster said. “You spend every day with your dog, and you worry about them hurting themselves.”
Foster and T-Rex teamed up when the Belgian Malinois was just over a year old. They’ve spent a lot of time together, and Foster knows the way T-Rex moves and behaves. That’s why in early December, he noticed that when T-Rex would hop out of the patrol vehicle, he just wasn’t walking properly.
Foster took the dog to a Houston veterinarian, and during an X-ray of the dog’s left leg, a few unusual spots and specks were located. It was determined T-Rex had bone cancer, and he would need more specialized treatment.
“A lot of the veterinarians at that clinic are Texas A&M (alumni), and they know the oncology department at the (TAMU Veterinary Medical Hospital),” Foster said. “Texas A&M was their first choice for T-Rex, and it was mine as well.”
T-Rex was taken to College Station later that month, and his doctors at A&M determined that if T-Rex was to live a full life – hopefully another five or six years – he would most likely need to lose his leg.
“The good news is that the cancer is a lot slower in spreading than other types (of bone cancer),” Foster noted.
Foster said he knows his buddy is hard-working and high-energy and would be able to thrive with only three legs. Though T-Rex’s days of chasing bad guys or serving as a member of the department’s SWAT team are behind him, he can still serve as an explosives-detection K-9 officer and can appear at public events to interact with children through educational opportunities.
On Dec. 31, T-Rex was responding to his last call on his last night on duty. A mobile phone store on Houston’s east side had been burglarized, and officers needed help locating the three believed to be responsible. T-Rex was hot on the trail of one of the men, chasing him through a neighborhood and leaping over chain link fences.
When T-Rex attempted to clear one high piece of fence, a section of the metal bars sliced open the tissue on his abdomen. Despite the injury, T-Rex continued to chase after the man until the suspect was trapped on the roof of a house and later apprehended.
T-Rex required more than 40 stitches and staples along his tummy, but the leg adjacent to his laceration – which is not the leg where the cancer was spotted – was not significantly affected.
“My focus was on getting T-Rex better,” Foster said. “It’s been miserable for him wearing that ‘cone of shame.’ He is so high-energy and ‘go go go,’ and slowing him down (to heal) has been our biggest obstacle.”
Being wounded has its perks, though. Formerly, T-Rex had lived at Foster’s home as an outside dog in a large 11-by-11-foot backyard kennel, separate from the family’s smaller pets. But with his injury, he now has been converted to an inside dog and has been provided a special Tempurpedic dog bed.
Though T-Rex is predicted to have a long, happy life without his back left leg, Foster will miss his partner on regular patrols. Foster will continue to keep T-Rex as a part of the family and take him on special assignments, but ultimately will need to acquire a new K-9 partner to run SWAT missions and patrols.
“It’s eerily quiet in the back of my patrol car,” Foster said, noting he misses the barking and slobbering from the back seat. “I didn’t realize how comforting it was to have him there.”