Shirley police seek funds for German shepherd’s surgery

SHIRLEY — Brian Pryor said he knew something was wrong almost immediately. When he found his dog, Charon, pacing around his house, howling in pain and struggling to keep down food and water, fear set in, he said.

The animal’s stomach had flipped, Pryor learned after a quick conversation with a veterinarian. Only emergency surgery could fix the life-threatening problem.

Pryor, assistant chief of the Shirley Police Department, said his heart broke immediately. The dog is much more than a pet, he said; Charon is the department’s only K9 officer, and Pryor knows better than anyone the value and protection the dog brings to the community.

Now, the department is asking the public for help to cover the cost of the German shepherd’s surgery. Charon’s position within the department is funded completely by donations, and the emergency medical bills set the department back nearly $5,000.

Pryor has set up a GoFundMe account, which has collected just more than $1,500 since it was created last week; the department will need $4,500 to pay for the surgery in addition to the about $2,000 it seeks annually from the community to cover Charon’s everyday expenses, Police Chief Mike Harrison said.

Charon joined the department in April 2010 as the agency’s first K9 officer. Pryor raised more than $25,000 to purchase the dog and have it trained. Since then, Pryor said, Charon has become an “irreplaceable” member of the community. The dog assists regularly on calls in Hancock, Henry, Madison and Shelby counties and is part of the Indiana State Police Department’s Meth Suppression Section.

Before the incident in late November, Charon had never had such a severe medical problem.

A turned stomach is the common phrase for gastric dilatation-volvulus. The condition occurs when a dog’s stomach expands and swells because of a build-up of gas or fluid, and then shifts, trapping the gas or fluid inside, according to the Canine Health Foundation. The issue is most common in large-breed dogs, particularly German shepherds, the foundation’s website states.

If left untreated, gastric dilatation-volvulus can cause damage to organs and is almost always fatal, the foundation’s website states.

Charon’s stomach felt bloated and hard on the night of his episode, and the dog had trouble sitting for long because of the pain, Pryor said. In the five years the two have been partners, Pryor said he has never heard Charon howl and cry in such a way.

“We’re very lucky we caught it when we did,” Pryor said.

Caring for Charon takes several thousand dollars each year depending on the dog’s needs. Shirley’s officers usually rely on the community to cover Charon’s expenses, including food and vet bills, because turning to the department’s budget would put a significant dent in the little town’s funding, Harrison said. Shirley has only two full-time police officers — Harrison and Pryor — in addition to K9 Charon and nine reserve officers.

Because Charon’s surgery occurred at the end of the year, the 2015 K9 fund has very nearly been depleted, Pryor said. He’s hoping the community will rally together as it has in the past to support Charon’s work. Anything over the $5,000 needed to cover the surgery will be used to cover the dog’s bills in 2016.

Community members can donate to the Shirley Police Department by visiting and searching “SPD K9 Medical Expenses for Charon.”

Checks can be mailed to 409 Main St., Shirley, to the attention of the K9 unit.

How to help

Charon, Shirley Police Department’s K9, needed lifesaving emergency surgery last month that’s left the department strapped for cash. Officers hope the community will rally together to raise funds to help pay for his surgery.

To donate, visit and searching “SPD K9 Medical Expenses for Charon.”

Also, checks may be mailed to 409 Main St., Shirley, to the attention of the K9 unit.

Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or