Community asked to help raise $10,000 for K9 surgery

Pancho needs surgery to fix herniated disk


WHEATLAND – Pancho is a reliable partner, an asset to the community, and a huge piece of the hearts of a local family.

The 5 ½ year old Belgian Malinois started life in Guadalajara, Mexico before becoming an American and finishing his training at Little Rock Canine Acadamy in Arkansas. He is trained in identifying narcotics (methamphetamines, heroin, cocaine, and marijuana), as well as apprehension, attacking, and handler protection.

On October 10, 2020, Captain Will Kirlin and Pancho began their first shift on duty, and every day Kirlin goes to work, Pancho does too. He has numerous felony drug seizures under his collar, though he has never been deployed to apprehend. Together, Pancho and Kirlin have seized over $60,000 in drugs and two stolen firearms. In his career Pancho has had over 600 calls for service and been deployed with the agency 100 times, including 77 for detection and 10 “find-the-bad guy” patrol deployments.

A year ago, Pancho began having mobility issues, with a short front stride and a long back stride. Tests by Colorado State University’s neurology department have found a herniated disk in his neck causing pressure on the spinal cord and pinching nerves. Blood tests show Pancho may be a carrier of degenerative myelopathy (similar to Lou Gehrig’s disease in humans), but the mobility issues he is experiencing are directly related to the herniated disk.

Recently, The Platte County Sheriff’s Department has cleared the way for fundraisers, but only through a third party. Local groomer Leah Maguire volunteered to head up those efforts. She has seen the department’s K9’s every month since they came on the force for grooming and has been caring for Pancho since he started in the K9 program. “He’s my boy – I love him to pieces,” Maguire said. “I know those boys real well (the dogs in the K9 program).”

She set up a GoFundMe for Pancho at Noon on Wednesday and posted it on Facebook. By Thursday morning, there was already $3,000 in contributions. “It has been an amazing response from the community. Things are going very well,” Maguire said on Thursday. “I want to put together other fundraisers so GoFundMe is not the only place, but I don’t know what that will be yet.”

Going off the quote from CSU, Maguire’s goal is to raise between $8,000 and $10,000, and if for any reason Pancho becomes ineligible for the corrective surgery, it costs less, or there is a surplus of funds raised, the money will go to the sheriff’s department specifically for care of its three canines: Pancho, Toro, and Picolo, or for the care of any future K9’s in the department.

And time is of the essence. If Pancho does not get the surgery to correct the herniated disk within the next few weeks, his condition will continue to deteriorate, and he will not be eligible for the surgery. At that point the county could lose a great asset, Kirlin - a faithful partner, and his family – a piece of their heart.

“My wife said it best,” Kirlin explained of how important Pancho is. “He’s my partner, my son’s best friend, and her baby.”

Kirlin said the sheriff’s office has been involved the entire time as he’s sought answers for Pancho, but “It’s a small community and a small agency. It’s hard to come up with funds like that for one special dog. There have been other agencies helping – that’s how I was able to connect with CSU.”

If the money is raised to help Pancho, he will be scheduled for surgery followed by some therapy. He should be able to be back to work fairly soon thereafter, but it all depends on how the surgery goes, just as it does with people.

Maguire wanted everyone to know the care of the dogs is largely the responsibility of the handlers. “The department is small and can’t pay for all of it. The handlers pay out of their own pocket for cleaning, grooming, having their nails trimmed, etc. to keep them healthy. They spend a lot of money out of their own pocket to keep their dogs in tip-top shape, and the expense of this surgery is just too much to take on with their salary.”

Anyone who wants to donate to help Pancho can go to www.gofundme.com/f/help-k9-pancho-regain-mobility . Also, when Maguire works out the details, look for information on local fundraisers as they are organized.

“I’m grateful for the help of the sheriff’s office, the other agencies, and the community for their help. If this surgery is successful Pancho could have five or six more years to benefit Platte County,” Kirlin said.