In his three and a half years with the Turlock Police Department, K9 Varick has helped apprehend wanted felons, aided in drug busts and led searches. Now he’s facing his greatest foe: cancer.
Varick is a five-and-a-half-year-old male sable German Shepherd and Malanois mix. He strikes a fearsome appearance when on duty with his handler Officer Nim Khano, but when off duty, he’s a loveable, playful bundle of fur who loves pets and has found his way into the hearts of many of the TPD personnel and volunteers.
“At work he’s all business and has made a lot of people change their minds just by his presence,” Khano said. “At home he’s a complete goofball and he never slows down. He could play all day long.”
That something might be amiss with him was first discovered when an officer was giving him some pets and noticed a bump along his jawline. He was taken to Monte Vista Small Animal Hospital and underwent a biopsy. The diagnosis was fibrosarcoma, a cancerous tumor derived from fibrous connective tissue. According to Pet MD, fibrosarcomas don’t always spread to other organs, but can “aggressively invade other tissue and bone that is near them.”
“It’s particularly hard because his jaw is his major tool,” said Turlock Police Chief Nino Amirfar.
The veterinarian said the cancer is nonoperable because of the location. Khano and Varick will return next week in an effort to determine the growth rate of the cancer.
“I’m hopeful and will stay hopeful,” Amirfar said.
The diagnosis has been hard news to accept for Khano and his family, who have formed strong bonds with Varick.
“It has not been easy,” Khano said. “I spend more time with him than anyone else. I know he would save my life if called upon and I wish I could do the same for him.”
Right now, Varick is showing no signs of the disease and is still going to work just like normal.
“We are being very cautious, but Nim is very well-trained and is keeping a watchful eye on him,” Amirfar said. “As long as he can continue on performing, we will continue to use him.”
“He doesn’t seem to know that anything is wrong,” Khano said of his partner. “He still likes to play tug-of-war and doesn’t react when I’ve touched it.”
Khano said the Turlock Police K9 Association will use their Facebook page to keep the community updated on Varick’s condition.