The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department has announced that Kuma, a Dutch Shepherd police K-9 best known for his appearance on A&E’s hit show “America’s Top Dog,” was officially retired from duty after six years of service following his diagnosis of T-cell lymphoma in early July.
On Aug. 25, just days before his retirement, Kuma received treatment for his cancer from PetCure Oncology’s Radiation Department at SAGE Veterinary Center in Campbell, California, where he was administered one dose of stereotactic radiation with the goal of establishing local control of the disease with minimal side effects.
According to veterinarians at PetCure Oncology, a disease like this in dogs is a rare occurrence.
“It’s not often we see T-cell lymphoma take quite this form in dogs, so developing a prognosis for an illness of this nature can be difficult,” said Dr. Matt Arkans, radiation oncologist at Petcure Oncology. “But in these situations and with a dog as strong as Kuma, we rely on the principles of cancer treatment. We attack the disease from as many angles as we can and try to give the patient the best chance possible for controlling the disease.”
Born in Holland nine years ago to the day of his retirement, Kuma first came to the sheriff’s department in July of 2015 after receiving his KNPV title, a certification awarded by the Royal Dutch Police Dog Association to service dogs who pass the rigorous KNPV exam.
Upon his arrival, Kuma was selected by Deputy Mike Victorino, Kuma’s handler and eight-year veteran of the department, to be his K-9 partner.
Six months into his law enforcement career and a year before Kuma’s arrival at the department, Victorino jumped at the first opportunity to join the department’s K-9 Unit, a lifelong dream of his, as a canine agitator. After a year of working and training with police K-9s, Victorino was selected as the next canine handler, following in the footsteps of his uncle, a former canine handler for the Modesto Police Department.
In August of 2015, Victorino tested several potential canines before training with and selecting Kuma, whereafter the benefits of having a K-9 partner quickly became evident.
“What’s great about working with Kuma is how he allows me to engage with the public,” said Victorino. “People in the areas we patrol will come up and ask about Kuma and we’ll share our appreciation for dogs. (Kuma) is, a lot of the time, that first stepping stone in building a relationship with the public.”
Kuma received national notoriety after he and Victorino appeared on “America’s Top Dog” on A&E, a competition series that brings together police K-9s and civilian dogs to compete through an obstacle course testing their speed, agility, scenting and teamwork. Kuma and Victorino placed third in their episode.
Kuma has also made a name for himself locally, assisting in the arrests of hundreds of suspects, including his most recent takedown of a man in Riverbank, California after he carjacked a vehicle occupied by a woman and her 14-year-old daughter in February. After the suspect ditched the car with his captives still inside, he attempted to make his escape on foot. Kuma ran down the perpetrator through an orchard while he was more than 150 yards away, where he was able to subdue the suspect until Victorino could move in and make the arrest.
In June of 2021, Victorino and Kuma were off-duty at Victorino’s home. While petting Kuma, Victorino noticed Kuma’s gums were protruding a bit, as well as a mass toward the front of his upper jaw. Victorino took Kuma to the Sylvan Veterinary hospital, where the mass was removed and sent to the lab for testing.
A few weeks later, the results came back and Kuma was diagnosed with canine lymphosarcoma (LSA).
Considering the different options for his partner, a family friend of Victorino put him in contact with PetCure Oncology, whose team of veterinary oncologists quickly developed a treatment plan for Kuma and conducted the SRT procedure.
“Right now it’s a waiting game,” said Victorino on Kuma’s prognosis. “He’s doing well and is still the same dog who’s had my back all these years. We just have to wait and see what the doctors say.”
Kuma will return to Petcure Oncology Sept. 28 for a follow-up on his condition.
Those looking to help Kuma and other police K-9s like him are encouraged to donate to the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s K-9 Association, a non-profit providing medical financing to SCSD’s retired K-9 officers, among other services.
PetCure Oncology, which is a part of Pathway Vet Alliance, is a marketing and management services company affiliated with PetCure Radiation Oncology Specialists (PROS), a veterinary healthcare provider with 13 board-certified radiation oncologists who have treated more than 5,000 pets with cancer since 2015. Supporting eight comprehensive cancer treatment centers across the country, PetCure also facilitates innovative telehealth services for both veterinarians and pet owners. For more information, contact a PetCure Pet Advocate at 833-PET-HERO.
Founded in 2003 and headquartered in Austin, Texas, Pathway Vet Alliance has grown from a single veterinary practice to over 400 locations across the U.S. Pathway's mission is to create the worlds most trusted, innovative, and connected pet health ecosystem - one that always nurtures people and pets through meaningful relationships and exceptional care. Pathway looks for practices and doctors seeking opportunities to grow and provides personalized management support to help them focus on providing the best possible care to their patients. Pathway has differentiated itself by focusing on the unique needs of each practice and partnering with the local team to implement their vision and work with their values. Learn more at https://pathwayvets.com/.