Doc has been with the department about a year-and-a-half. But he was taken out of active service on Aug. 7 after arthritis in his hips and a disc extrusion in his back rendered him unable to perform his duties.
Lt. Brian Sturgeon, who oversees the department’s K-9 operation, said the back injury might have occurred in the line of duty.
“We’re not sure if that was hereditary, or if it happened during an apprehension,” Sturgeon said. “He had a couple of apprehensions where the suspect beat on him pretty good. So it could have occurred there.”
Either way, the breeder from which Doc was obtained agreed to replace him with a new dog. But that could have meant sending Doc back, which would have been an emotional blow to officer Joe Gobely and his family, who have grown attached to the dog.
“Because there was a hereditary issue when it came to the arthritis, the breeder agreed to replace the dog,” Sturgeon said. “But when you exchange a product, it means taking the existing product back; and it looked like we would have to send Doc back.”
That’s when the rest of the community stepped in. Neither the police department nor the city requested funds. But a GoFundMe page had been started to raise enough money to compensate the breeder, and allow Doc to remain with the Gobelys.
In just three days, according to information shared at Monday’s City Council meeting, around $8,600 was raised. Which – while nothing is yet official – looks like enough to make sure the department still gets a new K-9 and Doc remains in West St. Paul.
— West St. Paul Police (@WestStPaulPD) September 12, 2017
But he did have to be declared ‘surplus’ by the City Council Monday.
“Anytime the city gets rid of property that’s of value it has to be declared surplus through the City Council,” Sturgeon said. “Whether it’s a K-9 or an old squad car or a file cabinet. It’s just a process we have to go through.”
Of course, squad cars and filing cabinets don’t generate the emotional attachment a dog does.
“He’s become really attached to our family,” said an emotional Gobely at the meeting Monday night. “I spend almost all day with him. “He’s really the best dog I’ve ever had.”
Sturgeon said the department expects to receive its new K-9 in November, which will again likely be assigned to Gobely. A bonding process will then begin, with the goal of having the new dog on duty by next summer.
Until then, West St. Paul police will rely on neighboring departments if the need for a K-9 arises.
“There will always be one available,” Sturgeon said. “I just might take a little longer.”