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Over $5,000 Raised for Former Watauga County Sheriff’s Deputy K9 for Cancer Treatment

By Gianna Holiday

A fundraiser was recently started for the Watauga County Sheriff’s deputy K9, Tanner, a 9-year old German Shepherd who has served with the Watauga County Sheriff’s office for 7 years.

Shawn Peele, Chief of Hospital Police for ARHS, stated that Tanner was recently diagnosed with Osteosarcoma in his right leg. Due to his medical condition, Tanner will require surgery and chemotherapy treatments in order to survive.

Tanner was already scheduled to retire in July, but was retired early in order for him to proceed with his surgery, treatments and medications along with careful follow-up care. He currently is also a patient of Dr. Emily Beard and The Animal Emergency & Pet Care Clinic of the High Country.

However, it was back in April when his handler Wes Hawkins noted that Tanner’s condition seemingly got worse “overnight”.

He noticed Tanner was not putting any weight on his right back leg and ended up taking him to the veterinarian later that same day to get an x-ray performed; this is when the growth on Tanner’s bone first became evident.

“Tanner went for his first surgery on the 21st of July and got another x-ray done to make sure that there were no others growths or masses. What they did find was a lot of bone loss,” said Hawkins. “The way this cancer works is that it eats away at the bone.”

During his first surgery, Tanner had his right hind leg amputated to prevent the spread of any further growths on the bone.

He had a successful career as a canine deputy for Watauga County with the recovery of countless narcotics and aiding in the apprehension of numerous criminals.

In addition to his professional career in law enforcement Tanner is more than just a member of the Sheriff’s office, he is also a member of his handler’s family. Canine deputies go on to live with their handlers and enjoy their lives after retirement as a member of their family.

“I didn’t ask for anyone to help me with this yet what was amazing was the support I received from people I don’t even know. They have the same feelings and beliefs that I do, that these dogs are not just tools but they’re also family,” said Hawkins.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help collect funds to provide medical care for Tanner. The fundraiser was headed by Shawn Peele, Chief of Police and Director of Safety and Emergency Management, who initially reached out to Hawkins wanting to help.

“Sean contacted me and said that he knew what my dog meant to me, and that he’d love to help out with the process,” said Hawkins.

The Pet Place in Boone is also partnering with this cause and to help sponsor Tanner for this urgent medical treatment.

The fundraiser, with 60 donors and 323 shares, exceeded their goal of $5,000 in less than a week’s time. Currently, they stand at $5,140 and are still accepting donations.

Hawkins currently has five treatments planned for Tanner, one taking place every three weeks over the course of approximately three to four months.

He hopes that with treatment, the cancer will stop spreading and Tanner will be able to live a comfortable retirement.

For any questions, contact Shawn Peele or Deputy Wes Hawkins from the Watauga County Sheriff’s office.

To donate, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/wcso-k9-tanner.

Tanner with the kids of his handler and owner, Wes Hawkins.