K-9 Officer Kevin Welsh does not get many chances to take out his former police dog since the animal was diagnosed with cancer in February.

But Saturday was different as the community came out to recognize Sabre's contribution to the township.

Sabre, a 7½-year-old German shepherd who started with the department in 2005, began urinating blood and showing signs of illness about Christmas, Welsh said. In February, he was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma in his blood vessels, he said.

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The veterinarians said he has about six months to live, Welsh said. Sabre is taking chemotherapy injections every three weeks, Welsh said.

"He has mostly good days, but every once in a while he has a bad day," Welsh said. "He will limp a little or will be lethargic."

The department sponsored a retirement party for Sabre at JD's Pub and Grille on April 16 to raise money for the K-9 program and to cover his medical expenses. The department presented Sabre with his retirement papers and a gift basket that included a stuffed rabbit, treats and medicine.

Chief Patrick Moran said it was upsetting to the department that Sabre, who was in his prime as a police dog, could not finish his career.

"You get the prognosis, and it's a shock. You don't expect it, and he doesn't look sick," he said. "We'd like him to be able to continue. We put a lot of training into the dogs. Police K-9s, the way they are, they like to work. It's what they live for."

The K-9 dog program is invaluable to the department, said Detective Sgt. Frank Weir. It was disbanded in 1997, but Sabre was one of two dogs that revived it in 2005, Welsh said.

Weir said the animals help the department by making sure a building is clear of any people, sniffing for narcotics, tracking suspects and going on regular patrols.

The bar was full of people from the community who have great affection for Sabre.

Weir said the dog was a frequent guest at local schools, camps and township events.

"All the kids know Sabre," he said. "Everyone sees him out in the community."

Sabre, who has been released to Welsh, is treated as one of the officer's family. The nine-year veteran of the department said he jokes that Sabre is his son. His mother calls Sabre her "grand dog."

"The bond is like something I've never had before. That's for sure," he said.

But as Sabre retires, the township is preparing his replacement. Welsh is now six weeks into training a new German shepherd, Titan, and hopes to begin patrols when training is finished in 2½ months.

Sabre knows he is being replaced by the 17-month-old dog and for the first time has become territorial around another animal, Welsh said.

But Saturday was Sabre's night.

"When I was taking Sabre out the door Titan was like, 'Oh yeah? You're going out with him? You never go out with him,'" Welsh said. "He hasn't been outside for weeks besides taking walks. He's loved this tonight. Everyone has come over and given him attention."

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