Beloved police dog dies from bone cancer | SummitDaily.com

Beloved police dog dies from bone cancer

CAITLIN ROW
summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado

Special to the Daily/Matt LitDigger with Dillon police officer Wendy Kipple, who adopted Digger in 1995. The police dog fought bone cancer and died

DILLON ” Digger, the “super nose,” could sniff out anything ” from a motorcycle gang’s meth stash to a lost woman with Alzheimer’s disease ” and he was called in for tough jobs.

Dillon’s beloved police dog joined the force in 1995 as a 5-week-old puppy ” a black Labrador/short-hair German Shepherd mix adopted by Sgt. Wendy Kipple from the Summit County Animal Shelter. His original purpose was to be a cadaver dog, and his name is short for “Grave Digger.” He died from bone cancer on March 26, two years after retiring from police work, at age 14.

“Digger spent 14 years by my side both at home and at work, and losing him feels like a part of me is gone,” Kipple said. “I almost feel lost without him at my side all the time. … Digger’s battle against cancer the last year-and-a-half was a hard-fought and valiant battle.”

His right, front leg was removed after being diagnosed with cancer in late-summer 2007. Digger was given a 50 percent chance to survive the year, and a 5 percent chance of beating it. And he did. Last October he was declared free of the disease, but it was back by January, spreading to his lungs and chest.

Kipple was then told he had six weeks to live. Once again, Digger defied the odds and made it 11 weeks.

“He continued to fight hard and just wouldn’t give up,” Kipple said. “Some tell me that it was apparent to them that he was fighting so hard because of his love for me.”

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Even after his cancer diagnosis, Digger came to work every day, “clear up to the end.”

“He was like a distinguished gentleman,” Kipple said. “He’d lay in the foyer and greet people, paws crossed.”

And Digger didn’t like to be apart from Kipple ” ever.

“If I left him at home, boy would he get mad,” she said. Once he even dug up her favorite plant.

“Digger thought he was a four-legged human,” Kipple said of her partner and best friend.

Certified for police work in 1997, Digger learned to search for evidence, people and drugs, but he wasn’t trained to bite. He worked in Summit County and across the state.

As Summit County’s first certified drug dog, Kipple said he even had a “hit” out on him at one point.

“He nabbed a lot of narcotics,” she said.

Kipple’s daughter also used him to sniff out her Easter eggs.

“Digger was normally mellow and relaxed,” Kipple said. “A lot of drug dogs are hyper. He’d just walk around and sniff, do an easy scratch. Everybody liked him.”

Articles about Digger fill a thick file that sits on Kipple’s desk ” Summit Daily articles, newsletters, glossy photos. He visited numerous schools over the years and participated in police demonstrations.

“I’ve had hundreds of condolences,” Kipple said. “He was a special dog. People thought a lot of him.”

Caitlin Row can be reached at (970) 668-4633 or at crow@summitdaily.com.