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Longtime IU athletic trainer treats IUPD K9’s arthritis with laser therapy

Apr 2, 2024

IUPD Officer Rob Botts and Indy perform a routine safety check at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Photo by Chris Meyer, Indiana Uni... IUPD Officer Rob Botts and Indy perform a routine safety check at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Photo by Chris Meyer, Indiana University

In his 43 years as athletic trainer for Indiana University men’s basketball, Tim Garl has never worked with a patient like this.

Indy, the IU Police Department’s nearly 6-year-old explosives detection K9, is the first dog Garl has treated. The chocolate Labrador retriever is receiving cutting-edge low-level laser therapy for arthritis.

“The first sign I noticed was that he was hesitating to jump into the car, so I had to pick him up,” said IUPD Officer Rob Botts, Indy’s handler. “Then, I noticed a bit of a limp in one of his front legs.”

Athletic Trainer Tim Garl administers arthritis treatment to IUPD K9 Indy while Officer Rob Botts gives him treats. Photo by Ch... Athletic Trainer Tim Garl administers arthritis treatment to IUPD K9 Indy while Officer Rob Botts gives him treats. Photo by Chris Meyer, Indiana University.

After a visit to the veterinarian in December 2023 and multiple X-ray images, Indy was diagnosed with arthritis in his shoulder and dysplasia in his elbow that were causing pain and making it difficult for him to do his job for the IUPD.

Indy and Botts have been a team since the pup was 8 months old. Botts trained him to be certified for explosive detection when he was 11 months old.

Since then, Indy’s well-trained nose has been responsible for the safety of thousands of students, faculty, staff and visitors who come to IU’s campuses for major events like basketball and football games.

Before large events, Botts walks Indy throughout the venue — up and down stairs, around tight corners, between seats and other spaces — so Indy can give everything a good sniff. He’s searching for the distinct odor of dangerous chemicals associated with explosives. It’s his vital work to maintain the safety of IU’s venues that makes Indy an extra special patient for Garl, and the only dog he intends to treat.

“We have a lot of respect for the IU Police officers and our first responders, and I know the training and investment in working dogs and how much we depend on the dogs to keep the environment safe,” Garl said. “I’m glad to be able help.”

Media kit: Access video interviews with Tim Garl and Rob Botts, b-roll of Indy’s treatments, and images.

Conducted in coordination with Indy’s veterinarian, the laser treatments last about 10 minutes each.

“Come here, Baby,” Garl called to Indy as he scurried into Cook Hall, a state-of-the-art athletic training space where IU men’s and women’s basketball players practice, train and condition. Indy’s tail whipped back and forth as he approached Garl for scratches behind the ear and pats on his side.

Garl had the photobiomodulation device used for the therapy plugged into the wall and ready before Indy walked in. Indy sat on the floor at the edge of the training table, and Garl sat just behind him on a stool wearing protective glasses during the treatments. As Botts fed Indy bits of kibble to keep him still and occupied, Garl rubbed the device against his shoulders.

K9 Indy. Photo by Chris Meyer, Indiana University. K9 Indy. Photo by Chris Meyer, Indiana University.

The laser light from the photobiomodulation device penetrates the tissue under his skin, relieving pain by reducing inflammation, and accelerating and promoting healing.

Botts said the laser therapy, in addition to the monoclonal antibody injections Indy receives each month, has made a difference since Indy started having problems about five months ago.

Indy’s treatments are ongoing, but he’s back to navigating up and down stairs with ease and jumping into the car. Indy is also able to maintain focus on his work instead of pain.

Most importantly, Botts said, he seems to be feeling like his usual self and the family member IUPD knows and loves.

“Not many people get the luxury of spending 24 hours a day with their best friend,” Botts said. “So it’s doubly important for a lot of reasons that he stays healthy.”

Find out more about the IUPD’s K9 Unit

Follow Indy’s progress on Instagram and Facebook.

Author

IU Newsroom

Mary Keck

Communications Manager, Public Safety

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