Heart condition forces cop’s best friend to take early retirement | PostIndependent.com

Heart condition forces cop’s best friend to take early retirement

Danyelle Rigli
Special to the Post Independent
Post Independent Photo/Kelley CoxOfficer Scott Wilhelm poses with police dog Rex, who is being taken off active duty due to a heart condition. Carbondale police are looking for a good home for Rex.

One of Carbondale’s finest is searching for a new home. He might shed a bit or drool, but he will make a good roommate for the right person.

Rex is the canine element of the Carbondale Police Department K-9 unit, but is now out of active duty due to health problems.

“When he only chased the ball up the hall twice and then lay down, I knew something was wrong,” said officer Scott Wilhelm, Rex’s partner.

At Redhill Animal Hospital in Carbondale, Dr. Caroline Arrott found that Rex has a heart problem that causes his lungs and abdomen to take on fluid.

“Initially they took out 20 pounds of fluid,” said Wilhelm. After that, Rex bounced back to his normal, active self. But he can’t go to work anymore. His job is too physically demanding for a dog with a heart condition.

Rex is a 2-year-old German shepherd who was brought to America from Hungary to be trained for law enforcement. Wilhelm was matched with Rex at a training school in Pennsylvania last July.

There, the two worked together constantly for a month, training from 8 in the morning until midnight in an intensive program. Rex specializes in sniffing out narcotics and tracking children or elderly people who have become lost.

“He’s my partner, we do a job together,” says Wilhelm, who said he still catches himself talking to the empty back seat of his cruiser. “Working with him has been top of the line.”

This summer, the police department will be getting a replacement dog, as Rex is officially under a one-year warranty. Since Rex has only been working in Carbondale since last July, he falls under this warranty. The new dog, also a German shepherd, will be here in August and arrives already trained.

Finding a home for Rex

The town is trying to find a good home for Rex. He currently lives with Wilhelm and his family, who are pretty broken up about the prospect of finding Rex a new home.

“We’ve spent a lot of time together, and we’ve become very attached to him,” Wilhelm said.

Due to his condition, Rex is a high-maintenance pet. He requires low-cost medication twice daily and can only eat cooked ground beef and rice, which helps control the fluid build-up.

He needs an owner who is willing to work with him daily. Rex needs to be the only dog in the household, but is good with older children and adults, recommended Wilhelm.

Rex will still make a wonderful pet for someone who is willing to go the extra mile for their dog, Wilhelm said. He is active, and since treatment began he has gotten back to his old self.

Judi Leake, a veterinarian at the Redhill Animal Clinic where Rex has been treated, said Rex can still have a good life. “It’s too bad that this happened. He’s a wonderful dog.”

Leake said that the Redhill clinic is in charge of his primary health and does not specialize in cardiac disease in dogs, which would be the next step in Rex’s treatment for his long-term health.

Because of the special circumstances, the Carbondale police are interviewing people interested in taking Rex home.

“We’re looking for someone who will take the time to train him and would be willing to feed him his special diet and give him his medication. He’s a great dog, though, and will live as a beloved pet for several years,” Wilhelm said.

Those interested in bringing Rex into their homes should contact the Carbondale Police Department at 963-2662 and leave a message for officer Wilhelm or Sgt. Chris Wurtsmith.

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