RUSSIAVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Russiaville Deputy Marshal Randy VanNatter woke up Friday morning and went to his back door to greet his K-9 partner named Kayos – a daily ritual he’s done since he adopted the Belgian Malinois more than seven years ago.
Then VanNatter remembered Kayos wouldn’t be greeting him ever again.
On Thursday, the long-time police dog of the Russiaville Police Department was euthanized after a three-week battle with lymphoma.
“It’s hard to look and he’s not there,” VanNatter said. “It’s tough. People that have had to put down a dog know how tough it is.”
Kayos was diagnosed with cancer last month. VanNatter took him last Wednesday to a veterinarian for his first chemotherapy treatment, which went well. The canine responded positively to treatment and seemed to be on the rebound.
“He seemed like he was himself and he was being active,” he said.
But on Monday, Kayos stopped eating. VanNatter took him back to the vet on Tuesday, where a blood draw revealed a dangerous spike in the number of his white-blood cells. The dog’s lymph nodes had swollen to the size of golf balls, he said.
Vets also discovered Kayos was bleeding internally and carrying a pocket of fluid in his stomach. Doctors drained the fluid and were able to temporarily stop the bleeding, but the diagnosis wasn’t good.
VanNatter took the dog home. On Thursday morning, his wife called and said Kayos was laying by his kennel unresponsive.
“It was bad,” he said. “I knew it was time.”
VanNatter said taking his K-9 partner and friend to be euthanized was one of the most difficult decisions he has had to make, but the dog’s condition left him little choice.
“A bond that a police officer has with a working police dog is hard to imagine,” he said. “When you go through cases where your dog will lay his life down for you, it creates a bond that you can’t express.”
Kayos died at around 2:45 p.m. Thursday. His body was cremated, and his ashes were given a short procession through Russiaville.
VanNatter said he is having an urn made for Kayos, and he plans to keep his ashes at home.
“I’m sad and I cry, but I’m happy because he’s not suffering anymore,” he said. “I tell people not to cry tears of sadness for him. It’s a joy, because he’s not suffering.”
Kayos’ death wasn’t only a blow to VanNatter. It was also a blow to the Russiaville Police Department.
The K-9 was a certified patrol dog with multiple specialties, including tracking, drug detection and bite work. On the last day Kayos served in the department, he helped deputies locate around 40 grams of marijuana, which led to the arrest of six people.
“We just don’t know right now what we’re going to do, but I’m not going to worry about it for a while,” VanNatter said. “I’m just going to miss my buddy for a while and then get back on the ground to find another dog to bring on.”
A Go Fund Me page set up for Kayos has raised over $4,000. VanNatter said the money will help pay for all the medical expenses incurred since the dog’s diagnosis.
“It’s nice knowing we have this extra money and we were able to take care of him like we needed to without worrying where the money came from,” he said.
VanNatter said although his K-9’s death has been tough, Russiaville residents and those in the law-enforcement community have rallied around him and the police department.
“We appreciate all the thoughts and the prayers and the cards,” he said “For a small town, I can’t be any more proud of Russiaville.”