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Tukwila police officer shares painful loss of partner to help other K-9s

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TUKWILA, Wash. -- A local police department is mourning the loss of one of their own, K-9 Officer Gino.

Gino was featured on Q13 FOX in 2009 after a robbery suspect stabbed him in the neck. Washington’s Most Wanted awarded him WMW’s officer of the month.

A nonprofit paid for the cost of Gino's surgery, but he lost his battle to cancer earlier this month. Gino's human partner is sharing his painful loss to make sure other K-9s get help in the future.

K-9 handlers say these dogs do rigorous work during the span of their careers, so when it’s time to retire, they’re faced with many medical needs that their handlers simply can’t afford.

Sharing pictures of his dog Gino, we see why Tukwila police detective Jamie Sturgill saw his German shepherd as more than a pet, but a partner.

“It`s special because we`re always together,” said Sturgill. “We`re at work together, we`re at home together. We sleep at the same times. He was always my little shadow at home.”

Dashcam video from June 2009 showed K-9 officer Gino helping catch a robbery suspect. He was then stabbed.

“When I told Gino to come back to me and release the bad guy, he (the suspect) jumped up on the knees and stabbed Gino right in the back of the neck,” said Sturgill.  “That was the beginning and then we had another three years after that, and it was great. He did a great job. He really loved work. I loved working with him. Those were by far the best four years of my career.”

After his retirement, Gino stayed at home with the Sturgills, living a healthy and happy life until earlier this month, when doctors discovered cancer.

“We decided to go with the surgery but once Dr. Chauvin got in there, he saw that there were too many tumors and it was the right thing to do just to let him go,” said Sturgill.

Sturgill said Chauvin happened to be the same doctor who helped save Gino’s life after being stabbed in 2009.

The Valley Retired Police Dog Association helped pay for the surgery, which cost $4,300.

“Unfortunately, the surgery was so expensive, it`s going to deplete the account, and so that`s the reason I`m here today -- to get the word out that the association is in trouble,” said Sturgill.

The association’s secretary, Kent police officer Eric Tung, also said the nonprofit might not be able to help other K-9 officers.

“It`ll come to a point where we have a lot of active teams, and in a number of years, we`re going to have a large number of retired teams so it`s something we`re trying to be proactive about,” said Tung.

Sturgill wants the association to be able to help others who may find themselves in the same painful situation.

“There are so many other dogs that are retired throughout the valley and just like Gino, it could be any day that they`re ... going to have to go to surgery themselves,” said Sturgill.

Gino’s surgery is estimated to have depleted the association’s account by half. Members are starting fundraising efforts and will be selling their annual calendar soon.

If you’d like to help:

Checks can be made to Valley Retired Police Dog Assocation and mailed to the Kent Police Department.

Fundraising information is also being updated on its Facebook Page:

https://www.facebook.com/VRPDA

Crime Stoppers of Tacoma/Pierce County says it will donate $1,000 to the fund if other people donate enough to match it.