Winona Lake Police Department lost a member of its enforcement team over the weekend.
Hugo, the police K9 with Winona Lake for a little over 6 years, passed away Saturday from complications of lymphoma.
Officer Joe Bumbaugh, Hugo’s partner, first saw local veterinarian Dr. Carla Carlton with Lake City Animal Clinic approximately three months ago when Hugo wasn’t acting right. She put Bumbaugh in contact with Purdue University Small Animal Clinic.
Bumbaugh says Hugo was in the Purdue program receiving chemo treatments for approximately six weeks when he seemed to make a full recovery. “He was in remission for about a month,” said Bumbaugh. “They told us to just monitor his health, but (the cancer) came back with a vengeance.”
Bumbaugh and Hugo both worked Friday night. “Hugo was with me in the squad car. He loved to work,” the officer tells. But on Saturday, Bumbaugh went on his shift alone. He noticed Hugo wasn’t himself. “I asked my wife to call me if his behavior started to change.” Unfortunately, Officer Bumbaugh received that call.
Although Hugo was still alert enough to try to respond to his partner’s voice, he was unable to move. Bumbaugh loaded his K9 partner in the squad car one final time and died en route to the veterinarian’s office.
“Dr. Michael Childress of Purdue University’s oncology staff is a phenomenal man – both him and his staff,” says Bumbaugh. “The love and care they provide to the animals is just amazing. They provided Hugo with a great deal of care and treatment that, without them, he wouldn’t have lasted this long.”
Although Officer Bumbaugh did not have immediate access to Hugo’s police career statistics, he says Hugo had a “significant number of apprehensions, where he physically tracked and located suspects.” He was also crediting with numerous drug arrests.
Hugo was whelped in the Slavic Republic and trained in Holland. He was an outstanding tracking dog and was IPO-1 titled. “You can ask about any officer around here and they’ll tell you how good Hugo was,” says Bumbaugh.
The K9 officer was cremated and a memorial is being planned. Officer Bumbaugh says people have asked him to have a service, but he says that would just be too difficult. Instead, he believes a more fitting tribute to Hugo would be to have a memorial service for him during either the Sept. 11 memorial or during Family Safety Day, an event Hugo always attended to demonstrate his skills.
While the pain of losing his partner his still fresh, Bumbaugh says he would still welcome another K9 partner. “I would love to continue with the K9, but that is the town’s call. What I can say is that I’m going to miss him. I don’t think people understand the the bond between handler and K9. He was with me 24/7 for six years. He was like a son to me. (Losing him) has been really difficult.”