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.