Man’s best friend: Police dog fights illness

This version corrects that dialysis is a treatment for some kidney problems.

Courtesy Photo Torro, Waco Police Department patrol dog, fell ill three weeks ago. He’s being treated in California as the Waco community makes donations toward his recovery.

By James Stockton

Three weeks ago, officer Chip Weiser of the Waco Police Department made a startling discovery. His partner of four years was fatally ill.

Weiser’s partner is K-9 Officer Torro, a Belgian Malinois. The first indication of trouble came when Torro vomited in the backseat of Weiser’s patrol car.

It is unknown exactly when Torro became sick.

“You couldn’t really tell,” Weiser said, adding that police dogs, and Torro’s breed in particular, are exceptionally hard workers.

Torro works for the Waco Police Department as a dual-purpose patrol dog. He is tasked with evidence recovery and finding suspects or missing persons in addition to being a narcotics dog.

Initial tests led veterinarians to believe Torro had contracted leptospirosis, a fatal kidney disease caused by the intake of contaminated water. However, after additional tests, doctors have confirmed this is not the case and the diagnosis is still open.

Once Torro’s condition reached the public through a police press release, there was an outpouring of support.

Sherry Tusa, a member of the Animal Legal Defense Fund and United Animal Nation, has helped coordinate the fundraising for Torro’s treatment by setting up a bank account for Torro and making herself available for people to contact.

“I just saw a need to support an animal in need,” Tusa said. “It was a way to help [Waco PD] defray additional cost.”

The additional cost to the police force was caused by a change in treatment venue. Waco PD originally planned on Torro’s treatment being in Louisiana; however, when the switch was made to the University of California–Davis, it was clear that outside help was needed.

Tusa cites her son, a former officer and handler of a K-9 officer, as the source of her information and her push to get involved.

Public support for Torro manifested itself in the amount of more than $2,000 as of Feb. 4. This money, given by all kinds of people from children to the elderly, has gone toward the dialysis treatments Torro receives every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to prolong his life.

Dialysis is a common treatment for human kidney problems, but it is much more specialized for animals, and only a handful of clinics in the country offer such treatments.

This is where Dr. Brandy Porterpan comes into the picture.

Porterpan is a veterinary specialist with the Animal Diagnostic Clinic in Dallas. After seeing Torro, she suggested he go to a special clinic at the University of California–Davis.

In addition to the money already raised, an anonymous woman donated her airline miles to fly Torro and Porterpan, who volunteered to fly with him to California.

“When you have an acute case [of kidney failure] there is a better chance of recovery,” Porterpan said. She also cited Torro’s youth and job status as key contributors in her decision to accompany him to California.

Porterpan’s description of her flight with Torro is more proof of the good will Torro has received since falling ill. The airline let Porterpan sit alone in a bulkhead row so Torro would be able to lie down on the floor at her feet.

Upon landing in California, Porterpan and Torro were greeted by the Sacramento K-9 unit and escorted to UC-Davis by the campus police.

Since arriving at UC-Davis, Torro has steadily improved, although he has not fully recovered. He continues to undergo treatment, but doctors and many people here in Waco are cautiously optimistic.

“Yesterday he produced a quart of urine,” said Weiser, who receives daily updates on Torro’s condition. Weiser said the production of urine could mean that Torro’s kidneys are starting to work again.

Hopefully, it’s a turning point.

“Doctors haven’t given up up there, and neither have we,” Tusa said.

Originally, it was believed that Torro would undergo a couple weeks of treatment, but he is currently finishing his third week of treatment, with more treatment to come.

The Waco PD hopes people will continue to make donations, as the long-distance treatment and the length of the treatment have been more costly than they originally expected. The bank account is set up at Extraco Bank for those who feel drawn to help Torro.

If you would like updates on Torro’s status, contact Sherry Tusa at