K9 Pee Wee had partner's back, made high profile arrests before falling ill last month

Skye Kinkade
Siskiyou Daily News

A few days before K9 Pee Wee died last month, he was on patrol with his partner, Siskiyou County Sheriff's Sgt. Sam Kubowitz, and even training alongside other local K9s and their handlers.

Kubowitz said you couldn't tell the Belgian Malinois was ill until he suddenly stopped eating. But when Pee Wee was assessed at Southern Oregon Veterinary Specialty Center, Kubowitz was surprised and saddened to learn his nearly 6-year-old partner was in full kidney failure.

Siskiyou County Sheriff's Sgt. Sam Kubowitz and his partner, K9 Pee Wee.

"He also had a heart murmur and two leaking valves," said Kubowitz, who spent the last two years with Pee Wee patrolling by his side.

Pee Wee's "end of watch" came on March 18, when he was put to sleep. Kubowitz said his kidneys were only functioning at 25%. Even with extensive ongoing treatment, the dog's quality of life would have been significantly diminished, even if he'd simply retired.

"Pee Wee really enjoyed his job," said Kubowitz. "He loved to work. He was also a great family dog. ... His best quality was that he had the ability to 'turn it on' and be a police dog, and then 'turn it off' and be a regular dog."

Kubowitz, a 14-year veteran of the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department, began his K9 handling career 10 years ago with Tom, who died of Cushing's Disease – an overproduction of cortisol in the body – and later, Gordon, who had to retire because he developed an aversion to loud sounds. 

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Pee Wee was Kubowitz's third K9 partner, and he'll be his last. "I'm not planning to take on another K9," he said. "I got pretty lucky with the three dogs I had."

Pee Wee was a patrol dog, trained to find people and objects, and to protect his handler. He assisted with several high profile arrests over the past two years, Kubowitz said, and provided him a sense of comfort and backup while working in Happy Camp for the past 14 months.

Although Kubowitz will not take on another K9 partner, he said the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office is in the process of trying to get another dog on the force. "Once we have a qualified deputy who wants to take on the responsibility, we'll try to get another," he said.

Currently, Lt. Behr Tharsing has the only other K9 partner in the department, Aron.

Kubowitz said it's not unusual for dogs like Pee Wee to work through injuries and illnesses. "His kidney disease may have been a genetic problem that he's had for a while," he said. "Dogs like him, a lot of times, don't show that they're sick – they're tough."

Kubowitz also thanked the community for supporting the K9 program, which provided Pee Wee with all his food and supplies. The county provided funding for his K9 training and veterinary care, but everything else was funded through donations and funds raised at events like the annual golf tournament.

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"K9 Pee Wee was valuable to our team and to fill the void he leaves behind will be extremely difficult, if not impossible," the Sheriff's Office said in a March 19 Facebook post announcing his death. "Pee Wee will be missed by all of us. Rest in peace, Pee Wee, we’ll take it from here."

"He was a great partner, and I really miss having him around," Kubowitz said.

Skye Kinkade is the editor of the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers and the Siskiyou Daily News. She is a fourth generation Siskiyou County resident and has lived in Mount Shasta and Weed her entire life.