The Jenkintown Police Department is resting easy about their sick K-9 Rocky. The department announced it stopped accepting donations for the dog's medical bills on the borough's website yesterday. The entire $8,000 needed for the officer's care was raised.
"We are not taking donations any more. We are pretty much all set. We really were stunned by the outpouring of support," said Jenkintown Mayor Ed Foley.
"This dog really belongs to the community. We’ve never used borough budget money. The upkeep always came from the community and people kind of feel like it’s their pet."
The Montgomery County K-9 needed life-saving surgery after the dog suddenly fell sick back on March 29 while at work. Rocky is the 18th officer on the force. Some of his tasks include tracking fugitives, screening for drugs and community policing.
"All of a sudden he was really seriously ill. He started to vomit and the handler had to take him to the hospital. For this to happen when it did, go figure," said Jenkintown Police Chief Al DiValentino.
Doctor's tell the department that they still don't know what caused Rocky's sudden illness, but it led to emergency surgery at the University of Pennsylvania Animal Hospital. And more than $8,000 in medical bills.
The timing for Rocky's health issues was unfortunate.
According to DiValentino, the Department's K-9 unit is solely funded by donations from local businesses and organizations. Two days before Rocky got sick, the insurance policy for the dog expired and there was not enough donated money to renew it.
The cost of Rocky's surgery and post-surgery care ballooned to thousands of dollars. After hearing from doctors that Rocky had a 50/50 chance of surviving the surgery, the department immediately started fundraising to pay for his continued care.
Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman met Rocky shortly after he was inducted to serve the department in 2008. Ferman posted a flier with information about Rocky's condition on Facebook to promote the fundraiser.
"He has been a dedicated public servant for many years," she said. "When I heard from the Chief about Rocky's situation, I thought social media might be a good platform to let our community know about the need and how they could help."
Numerous schools in the Jenkintown School District pitched in with the fundraising effort. Activities to raise the funds engaged the entire school community from selling $1 paper dogs to teachers at Jenkintown High School donating $5 to have a dress down day.
"Whenever there's something going on in Jenkintown, the whole community comes together to help. And he is the dog that comes to the school and the kids see him during class trips, so the kids all love him," Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent Susan Hughes said. "Everybody loves to help a dog."
Jenkintown Borough is going forward with a previously scheduled raffle to benefit Rocky this Saturday as part of their "Spring Egg Hunt" event. Mayor Foley hoped Rocky was well enough to make a surprise visit the event, but he will likely need more rest and will be back on the streets soon.
"When we reached out to the public for support, the response was immediate and overwhelming, said DiValentino. "Again, we thank you for your kindness and generosity. When Rocky returns to work, please feel free to stop in and visit him."