Washington police department seeking donations to help save K-9 diagnosed with cancer

In Washington state, one of the Lynnwood Police Department's K-9s, a 7-year-old German shepherd named Earl, is taking on a bigger fight than any arrest on the streets: He's fighting cancer and facing costly treatments.

The cancer was a shock to Earl's handler, Officer Warren Creech.

"Finding that melanoma, that lump, really made me feel like … the clock was running out," he said. "And that was an uncomfortable feeling for me because I thought we had – I hope we have – a lot more time together."

The department discovered the melanoma in Earl’s mouth a few months ago. Lynnwood police have only four K-9s and Earl is one of the most experienced. He’s responsible for about 100 arrests in drug detection and tracking down suspects on patrol.

“Earl is an amazing animal, an amazing member of our K-9 unit,” Cmdr. Cole Langdon said. “He is really, at this point, probably our best dog in the unit.”

Langdon said Earl is undergoing immunotherapy but that radiation is too costly and out of reach.

“We’re looking at a potential of $7,000 to $8,000 of additional money that would exceed what we’re able to cover with the insurance we carry for the animals,” Langdon said. “It’s something, when we look at the service life for the animal and the expected service life, we have to be good stewards of public funds.”

But purchasing a new K-9 and training it is expensive as well.

A new K-9 costs anywhere from $10,000 to $12,000 and requires hundreds of costly hours of training.

“When you start talking about the man-hours in it, we’re $90,000 into these animals,” Langdon said.

“He’s 7,” he said. “So we’re at a point if we can get him to 10 years of age, we’ve gotten a good working life out of him, and that’s what we like to see.”

Creech and Earl have a special bond; Earl is not only a work partner, but lives with Creech’s family.

“He’s put in a lot of time and effort and years and put himself into some dangerous situations for our department and for the community,” Creech said. “You know, I care for him very deeply personally.”

"Do you think about losing him?" KIRO-TV reporter Linzi Sheldon asked.

“Yeah, I do,” Creech said. “I’ve had conversations with my wife about it and he's a member of our family.”

In the meantime, Earl isn’t letting fighting cancer slow him down.

“We're still catching people,” Creech said. “We caught someone who ran away from a stolen car last month. And hopefully he's still going to have a lot more successes coming his way.”

Find out how you can help K-9 Earl by emailing Lynnwood police Sgt. Joe Dickinson at jdickinson@lynnwoodwa.gov.

Watch a video from the department about Earl here.

About the Author