Blount County deputy drives 2,500 miles to save retired K-9 officer

MARYVILLE (WATE) – Kopper has worked to protect his community the majority of his life, before retiring from the Blount County Sheriff’s Office’s K-9 Unit.

When Kopper’s long-time partner and owner, Corporal Matt Thompson learned he had prostrate cancer, he loaded the 14-year-old Belgian Malinois in the car and drove 2,500 miles to enroll Kopper in a clinical trial at the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

“It was overwhelming. It was devastating. A ton of questions, like the most pressing was ‘What is his fate? What does the future hold for Kopper,'” said Cpl. Thompson.

If you’re a male, over the age of 45, you’ve likely heard of the importance of checking for prostrate cancer from your doctor. Male dogs are also at risk. Fourteen percent of men get prostrate cancer, but today 99¬†percent of men diagnosed will survive the cancer because of clinical trials like the one Kopper participated in.

Slideshow: Kopper’s trip to California

kopper-slideshow

Dr. Bill Culp, a surgeon at the veterinary medical teaching hospital, was able to map out the veins providing blood supply to to Kopper’s tumor and block them, cutting off blood supply and nutrition to the tumor. In Kopper’s case, the size of the gland and tumor decreased as cells died.

The retired K-9 officer was able to return home to his family in Tennessee within a few days. Culp worked with Kopper’s local veterinarian to make sure his recovery was uneventful. Kopper’s vet said his prostrate has decreased in size and he has been doing well.

“His tumor is dying off because of lack of blood supply line. He’s back like he was and he likes to go with me everywhere I go and just be a part of my life,” said Cpl. Thompson. “We’ve shared a lot of things together, done a lot of things together and been a lot of places together. He’s comparable to a child.”

Culp said the hope is that the minimally invasive treatment will improve the quality and length of life for dogs with prostate cancer. The procedure has been performed on six dogs and Culp said the early results are very promising.

Culp is working on recruiting more dogs, with naturally occurring prostrate cancer, in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the minimally invasive procedure. To learn more about the trial, visit www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/clinicaltrials.

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