'Art's angel' helps injured Belleville police dog get past the pain

News-DemocratOctober 22, 2013 

A former Belleville Police K-9 who was once in so much pain he often couldn't walk outside to relieve himself is running and playing and searching for narcotics again.

Art, a 6-year-old Belgian Malinois, was retired from duty with the Belleville Police Department in July when pain from a spinal injury prevented him from working. Art sustained the injury during a routine training exercise when he fell into a hole while running. He retired to life as a pet with his handler, Officer Brian Dowdy. But, Art was not doing well. The pain was getting worse, to the point where Dowdy had to carry him outside so he could urinate.

"He was in so much pain," Dowdy explained. Even through he was on pain medication, Art still hurt. The vertebra between his shoulder blades were severely compacted. "They told me I'd have to put him down and when the day came, I couldn't do it. I didn't take him."

A woman read about Art and his unfortunate early retirement from the department and wanted to help. Her cat receives treatment from a veterinarian in Chesterfield, Mo., who specializes in the rehabilitation and pain treatment in animals and decided Art should meet the specialist, Dr. Ava Frick.

Frick has specialized in the rehabilitation of injured animals at her clinic, Dr. Frick's Pet Rehab and Pain Clinic, since 2001. Frick does chiropractic work, acupuncture, massage, Alpha-Stim microcurrent therapy, cold lasers, utilizes an infrared light sauna and an underwater treadmill to rehabilitate injured pets. The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, contacted the police department, talked to Dowdy, and got Art in to see Frick. She is paying for Art's treatments. Frick called the anonymous donor "Art's angel."

"It was amazing," Dowdy said of Art after his first treatment. "She started adjusting him and when she got to the area where he was hurt you could hear it crack, it sounded like shots going off. You could just see his body relax and his eyes got really big. It was amazing."

Art is no longer on pain medication and will visit Frick about once a month for an adjustment for as long as he needs it.

On Tuesday, Frick made the trip to Belleville to give Art a chiropractic adjustment and to watch him at work. He tugged at his ball toy, jogged actively next to Dowdy and excitedly located a stash of marijuana used to train narcotics dogs.

There is the possibility that Art could return to limited duty as a narcotics dog, Dowdy said.

"He can't do any bite work because he might re-injure himself, but, he can certainly do search work," he said. Art's forte' is searching for narcotics, a job he appears to enjoy.

Frick and "Art's angel" watched him work and watched him jog, sit and lie down without pain.

"I talked to Brian and told him that maybe there were some things I could do to help Art," Frick said of her first conversation with Dowdy. "When I first saw Art he had difficulty moving. He caused a dislocation of his vertebra in the area between his shoulder blades and he couldn't move because it was pinched. When I got to the right spot, you could hear the audible pop and he started moving around and laid down and visibly, comfortably rested."

She said she also discovered he had injured his hock (which is the equivalent of a human ankle) in his fall and treated that as well.

During subsequent visits to Frick, Art seemed to know she was helping.

"He relaxes, and he'll turn around and say thank you," Frick said. "Just the way he looks at you, you can tell he's saying 'thank you.'"

Art joined the Belleville Police Department in 2011. He got his name and position in the department through Art on the Square donations, in conjunction with West Belleville Promotional Committee, both of which funded the purchase of Art.

"He has adjusted to life in the home. He's become a family pet," Dowdy said. "He and the four-pound Yorkie have become best friends, chasing each other around the house. He even sleeps in bed with me."

Contact reporter Jennifer A. Schaaf at jschaaf@bnd.com or 618-239-2667.

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