Like police dogs around the world, K9 Aron devoted his life to helping humans. Along with his handler, Officer Adam Ziegler, Aron served the people of Gloucester County, New Jersey, for several years. The German Shepherd tracked suspects, sniffed for bombs, and was honored for his role in the rescue of a lost child.
“We helped track a nine-year-old autistic boy who went out behind his house to a creek that connects to the Delaware River,” Ziegler recalls.
The lost boy got stuck in mud up to his neck, but K9 Aron, Officer Ziegler, and their colleagues were able to find him before the tide came in. Ziegler and Aron were hailed as heroes, and presented with a Life Saving Award With Valor from the Gloucester County Police Awards Committee.
“There was a big chance that he was going to drown if we didn’t locate him,” Ziegler explains.
A few short months after helping to pull the boy from the muck, K9 Aron began his transition from police dog to family pet. By the time he officially retired in February 2015, Aron hadn’t been active in police work for a year and a half, and was enjoying his golden years in the Ziegler family home. Unfortunately, a routine examination just before his last official police appearance revealed this hero dog was now the one who needed help.
K9 Aron needed to have his shots updated before he could be groomed for the retirement ceremony that would see him paraded before local dignitaries and news crews at a council meeting. During the vet appointment, Aron’s veterinarian began to suspect the retiree was suffering from kidney disease.
“His blood and his urine and his samples all came back kind of wacky. They were like high phosphorus and things like that,” Ziegler says.
The vet’s suspicions were confirmed when K9 Aron was sedated and given an ultrasound, which also revealed a very large mass on his spleen. The mass wasn’t cancerous, but it needed to be surgically removed.
“They also found another large mass inside his stomach cavity. That also wasn’t cancer, which was good, but they removed that as well.”
K9 Aron spent several nights at the animal hospital before heading home to recover at Ziegler’s. The total cost of his treatment was $4,600, but the Deptford New Jersey Police Department only had a budget of $1,000 to spend on Aron’s vet care. According to Mark Magazu, the founder of the Angels for Animals Foundation, this situation is all too common for police dogs.
“These dogs — whether they’re active or retired — can be faced with very serious medical problems, and those bills can be in the thousands of dollars, which their agencies haven’t been able to able to budget for. It’s an awfully difficult thing to plan for, and that makes it an awfully difficult thing to budget,” says Magazu, whose foundation provides financial assistance so that pets can receive life-saving medical care when their owners suffer financial hardship.
After hearing about K9 Aron’s situation, Magazu created the the Guardian Angels K9 Fund in March 2015 to raise money for the medical care of police dogs. Mazgazu says the fund was a logical extension of the Angels for Animals mission.
“These dogs served us, and we’re gonna serve them in their retirement. We’re not gonna leave them off on their own,” he explains. “These retired dogs are almost always adopted out to officers, and it’s very unfair for us to expect officers to incur thousands of dollars in medical bills for these retired animals.”
Thanks to the newly formed Guardian Angels K9 Fund, Officer Ziegler wasn’t on the hook for the thousands of dollars of care K9 Aron needed. Generous donations from the community saw the fundraising goal for Aron’s care reached by June 2015.
“I really couldn’t thank them enough,” says the father of three, whose wife’s job was among those cut by a local school district shortly before the illness was discovered.
“I just can’t say enough about them and how they’ve helped me out.”
Aron is now on several different medications for kidney disease, high phosphorus, and lyme disease, but Ziegler says his former K9 partner is still up for a game of tug or some backyard ball — even if he’s not as fast as he used to be.
“His body is that of a 13-year-old dog who spent 10 of those years as a police dog, so he doesn’t get around great, but his mind is still there.”
Aron was the first police dog helped by the Guardian Angels K9 Fund, but he won’t be the last. Magazu is working to expand the fund on a national level, and to identify and assist other police and military K9s in need of assistance.
“It’s really important that we build the reserve and that we’re successful in our fundraising efforts so that we can provide life-saving care for these dogs who are protecting us every day in every community across the country,” says Magazu.
The Guardian Angels K9 Fund is currently accepting donations via text message. To donate, text GuardianK9 [dollar amount] to 41444. You can also visit the Angels for Animals Foundation to find other ways to help.
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About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.