Since he joined the Baltimore County Fire Department in 1989, Barney has searched out more than 40 people, living and dead, in seven states. Now the 6-year-old golden retriever is in trouble his life threatened by cancer and human comrades are seeking help for him.
They need $2,000 to pay for chemotherapy.
About two weeks ago, Lt. Dan Kluge, Barney's handler, said he found a lump on the left side of the dog's neck and took him to the Falls Road Animal Hospital, whose veterinarians have treated the department's two search dogs for years.
Tests performed by Dr. Kim Hammond produced the grim diagnosis lymphosarcoma.
The prognosis is that without treatment, the dog would be dead in two months; with treatment, he has a chance for a normal life span of 10 to 12 years because lymphosarcoma responds well to chemotherapy, Lieutenant Kluge said.
Barney had his first chemotherapy treatment Monday. Normally there are side effects to the treatments, such as lethargy, "but Barney came out of there pulling the attendant," the lieutenant said. "He still hasn't had any side effects; he doesn't know he's sick."
But in fact Barney is a very sick dog, his handler said. He will have chemotherapy once a week for four weeks, then a two-week break, and then once a week for five more weeks.
He said Dr. Hammond and his associate, Dr. Keith Gold, have treated the two search dogs, Barney, and Mattie, a black Labrador, without charge since the unit was formed. "But this treatment is too expensive for them to pay for it," Lieutenant Kluge said.
Neither of the veterinarians was available yesterday to discuss Barney's case.
Barney and Mattie, who joined the department at the same time, are well known to school children through open houses and fire education programs.
Because the dogs have helped many families whose loved ones were missing, and because of budget constraints in the department, Lieutenant Kluge said the Fire Department decided ask for public assistance for Barney.
Donations may be sent to the Barney Fund, Falls Road Animal Hospital, 6314 Falls Road, Baltimore 21209.
Barney was 8 weeks old when he was donated to the department, which was then forming the country's first career search-dog unit, Lieutenant Kluge said.
The dog went on duty after a year's training and with the lieutenant has participated in searches in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia.
When not on duty with Lieutenant Kluge at Dundalk's Eastview Fire Station, Barney lives with the family in Perryville. "My daughters grew up with him and helped to train him," hiding from Barney and letting him sniff them out, he said. "When he found them alive, it would perk him right back up. These dogs are amazing."