Hero Down: Aiken County Sheriff's K9 Kimbo Succumbs To Cancer

Holly Matkin

Aiken County Sheriff's Office K9 Kimbo joined the department in 2015.

Aiken, SC – Aiken County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) K9 Kimbo died on May 16 in the arms of his human partner.

K9 Kimbo, a six-year-old Belgian Malinois, began suffering seemingly minor medical issues in February, his handler, Aiken County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Ruge, told Blue Lives Matter on Wednesday.

Deputy Ruge immediately took K9 Kimbo to the veterinarian, but no major illnesses were identified.

“Originally it was thought to be minor issues,” but K9 Kimbo’s overall demeanor “still didn’t feel right,” Deputy Ruge explained.

In March, K9 Kimbo began having prostate problems, but was still “full of [life] and always on the move,” he said.

But as the weeks of treatment progressed, K9 Kimbo’s health failed to improve, leading to more tests being scheduled.

Deputy Ruge ultimately ended up rushing his K9 partner back to the veterinarian six days before the tests were scheduled to take place. K9 Kimbo underwent surgery “in an attempt to improve his quality of life” after cancer screenings came back negative.

“Recovery had its ups and downs, but [we] struggled through them,” Deputy Ruge said.

Although the procedure gave him more time, K9 Kimbo’s health deteriorated rapidly beginning on May 15.

“After working all night and doing his favorite thing, searching for dope, new symptoms popped up,” confirming Deputy Ruge’s suspicions that “things were not good,” he said.

Although the veterinarian was closed for the day, the office responded to the deputy’s “frantic texts,” and agreed to meet him and K9 Kimbo at the office.

“Puzzled as well by the new symptoms, the vet treated Kimbo as best he could,” his human partner recalled.

By the next morning, K9 Kimbo’s legs began to swell, and testing from the day prior “confirmed everyone’s [worst] fears,” Deputy Ruge said.

K9 Kimbo was dying from cancer, and the ACSO was urged to humanely euthanize him “as soon as possible to stop his pain,” according to the deputy.

After conferring with ACSO administrators and K9 Kimbo’s former handler, Deputy Kenneth Lively, Deputy Ruge took K9 Kimbo home to wait for the veterinarian to arrive.

As Deputy Ruge went to take his partner out of the truck, he “could see in [his] eyes he was saying, ‘Daddy I can’t jump down – I don’t have the energy for that,'” he told Blue Lives Matter.

He carried K9 Kimbo to the yard he loved to play in, as fellow deputies, K9 handlers, and family members arrived to say their goodbyes.

K9 Kimbo drew his last breath and “peacefully passed away on his own” in the arms of Deputy Ruge and his wife at approximately 7:27 p.m., prior to the veterinarian’s arrival.

Deputy Ruge said he believes K9 Kimbo passed away to help save his human partner and family from having to “watch him be put to sleep.”

K9 Kimbo joined ACSO in June of 2015, when he was selected by Deputy Lively at Ultimate Working Dogs in West Virginia.

The duo worked together until August of 2016, when K9 Kimbo was paired up with Deputy Ruge.

“Over the next two years and nine months, [we] had lots of joys, scares, and excitements,” Deputy Ruge told Blue Lives Matter.

K9 Kimbo also maintained his relationship with Deputy Lively and his family for the rest of his life.

“Knowing the bond between a handler and canine is hard to describe,” Deputy Ruge said. “Most say they are just a dog, but to the K9 Officer world, they are not any animal, dog, pet, or even family member….to them, they become part of [the] handler.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Ruge, and Deputy Lively in the loss of K9 Kimbo.

Comments (5)
Snakeman 51
Snakeman 51

RIP, Big Dog. I know you are at The Bridge watching over your Partner and his Family.

No. 1-5

Cancer...claims a K-9 who served in LOVE and SUPPORT...so sad when "C" takes a loved one to Heaven. May Kimbo's memories glow in love and remembrance as the family faces life with the loss.


I'm crying like a baby. RIP Kimbo and please tell my girls I love and miss them when you see them.


This is a heartbreaking story. Condolences to Deputy Ruge on the loss of his beautiful partner, as well as to the Aiken County Sheriff's Department, Deputy Ruge's family, and Deputy Lively. RIP, K9 Kimbo.


My heart breaks to see and read these stores. My husband is a Veterinarian he often conveys this is the hardest job to lay an Officer K9 or Military K9 to sleep. It breaks his heart to and if possible Prays with the handler then crys for the hurt that so many suffer. We are Americans we support our Law Enforcement Officers , Military, First Responders we feel their pain to. God bless all you may you stay safe.

Fallen Heroes