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Retired police K-9 recovering cancer diagnosis, leg amputation

Posted at 11:10 PM, Jan 30, 2023

CANTON, Ohio — Canton Police K-9 Zayne served longer than most in his patrol and bomb dog roles, working some challenging assignments.

“He had a really happy and successful career,” said Zayne’s partner Officer, Chris Heslop. “Presidential details, Hall of Fame, just threats in the community.”

After more than nine years on the job, the Belgian Malinois retired in early September. That, too, has proved to be another challenge.

“It’s not the retirement plan that I had for him. You usually want to spoil him and let him be a couch potato and do whatever they want,” explained Heslop, who took full ownership of the dog in his retirement.

One month after Zayne finished working, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. The bone cancer was found in a tumor in his front leg.

“It was kind of a big shock to me and my family,” Heslop recalled. “After doing the bloodwork, the ultrasound, the X-rays to see it wasn’t anywhere else, [we realized] this was something that could be stopped.”

Zayne’s vet determined the best course of action was to amputate the dog’s front left leg to prevent the cancer from spreading. He underwent surgery in early January and went home with a large scar and a new way of living.

“You will find out that they’re just amazing in their adaptability and their resilience,” Heslop said. “It’s more traumatizing to the human element than it is for him. He’s like, ‘I’m still a dog and I still want to play.’”

Several weeks after the surgery, Zayne is adjusting to his 3-legged lifestyle. His favorite activities still include chasing a tennis ball: the reward he favored while on the job. He’s also growing increasingly fond of the leisure time retirement provides.

“He’s never been allowed on the couch and now he’s made his way up to the couch,” Heslop laughed. “He’s getting a lot of belly rubs and I think he’s getting used to all of this attention he’s getting.”

Heslop is Canton’s head K-9 trainer and the president of the Police K-9 Association, a nonprofit that trains and assists current and former K-9s around the region. He credits some of Zayne’s resilience and adaptability to police training.

“We expose our K-9s to a lot of environmental - slick floors, dark places, attic crawl spaces and stuff. I think that really helped, that he can conquer a lot of things on his own,” he said. “He hasn’t faltered, really at anything. I expected him to fall more than he has. If he does slip a little bit, he just keeps moving.”

Heslop expected to pay for Zayne’s medical costs out of pocket, but an online fundraiser has collected more than $4,800 of the $6,200 expense.

“I never thought we’d have the support we did,” he said. “It’s taken a great burden off of me and I can focus just on taking care of him.”

Zayne is still recovering from the surgery and Heslop hopes special physical therapy will help the former K-9 rebuild his strength. He plans to make the rest of Zayne’s retirement as carefree as possible.

“This summer will probably be rest and relaxation, maybe go boating and go on small hikes, just let him be a dog and enjoy,” he said. “He really, really is enjoying his life right now.”

If you’d like to support to K-9 Zayne’s recovery, you can donate in the following ways:

Police K-9 Association
P.O. Box 7232, Canton, OH 44705
Memo: Zayne

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