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A German Shepherd lays on the floor with a shaved left leg. Bandages and other medical equipment surround the dog.

Charity takes a bite out of retired police dogs' medical bills

A group of retired police-dog lovers have created the charity Ned's Wish, which helps dog owners pay for future medical costs. Credit: RCMP


Police dogs risk life and limb doing their job. In return for that service, a group of volunteers have banded together to make the retirement of hard-working police dogs across Canada a little easier. Ned's Wish helps the owners of these dogs cover some or all of their pet's medical bills.

"It's not a question of if your dog will get hurt, but more like when," says Cpl. Garfield Henderson, a veteran RCMP dog handler who's had four canine partners over his 16-year career.

RCMP dogs, all German Shepherds, sustain many injuries while working in a demanding occupation. They break their bones and teeth, get punched, stabbed, and even shot. In 2021, two RCMP police dogs were killed in the line of duty.

"They sacrifice their lives every day for us because their drive to succeed is phenomenal," says Henderson, who raised the charity's namesake, Ned, as a pup.

The cost of injuries

Ned worked as an RCMP police dog for more than five years, and received several injuries, including a severe knee wound that required a steel plate and pin to be inserted in his rear leg. But, an infection set in after Supt. Stacey Talbot adopted Ned, who was retired at the time. His medical bill cost nearly $3,500.

"When animals get sick or injured, veterinarian bills can get big real fast. I don't know how people do it," says Talbot, who never worked as a dog handler. "Those dogs are not really candidates for pet insurance because many have pre-existing conditions."

Talbot eventually obtained some pet insurance. However, it covered less than half of the $50,000 in medical bills Ned incurred before he died in May 2016.

Creative solutions for funding

A close-up of a German shepherd dog
Ned, the retired RCMP service dog that inspired the Ned's Wish charity.

The experience with Ned, her love of animals, and respect for the work of police dogs inspired Talbot to launch Ned's Wish. "The dog teams get called 24/7," adds Talbot, who served as acritical incident commander with Emergency Response Teams and with a Major Crimes Unit. "Whether we're tying to find someone lost, or tracking someone, the dog team always provides critical information to support what we do."

Talbot, along with some RCMP members, police from across the country, and civilians formed a board of directors and enlisted the help of a lawyer to apply to the Canada Revenue Agency for charitable status. They launched a website, and promoted the charity using social media. The organization has been soliciting donations for several years, and has sold out of a fundraising calendar for the past two Christmas seasons.

Talbot, who will officially retire from the RCMP in 2022, plans to grow Ned's Wish in the coming years. She also encourages the owners of any retired police dogs across the country to register with the charity. "Anything over $2,000 we'll go out on social media to do emergency fundraising to help," says Talbot. "We'll move heaven and earth to help a dog."

For more information, visit the website for Ned's Wish.

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