When Michael Winter, a Clairemont chiropractor, first saw Kurt von der Kahler Heide, his new patient was in a dog of trouble.
A loyal, trustworthy City of San Diego employee more interested in a pat on the head than a pension, he had nevertheless been forced to retire in March because of a painful hip.
After working for the city so tirelessly that his tongue would often hang out, one might have at least expected a gold watch as his retirement award.
But no. Instead, von der Kahler Heide--better known to his friends as Clodo--was given a plastic fire plug and several bags of dog food.
That's what you get when you're a member of the elite in the San Diego Police Department canine corps, as Clodo, a 5-year-old purebred German shepherd, is.
As such, Clodo and his partner--a human police officer named Cheryl Morel--patrolled the southern reaches of San Diego, around San Ysidro.
It was strenuous work for the 85-pound Clodo. He had to jump fences, crawl on his stomach, run down bad guys in open country and search for burglars in dark buildings.
And he carried out his tasks with aplomb and distinction, leading all others in the canine unit in the number of felony arrests he helped with the year before his retirement.
Last February, though, Clodo began to whimper. His hip was giving him pain. Soon, he was unable to scamper up hills, climb in and out of the patrol car or jump over a two-foot fence. Instead of continuing as a working police dog, he was destined to become Morel's backyard pet.
That's when Winter stepped in. A chiropractor who also works on dogs, cats and rabbits, he became intrigued by news accounts of Clodo's retirement. He called the Police Department and offered his services.
"I was a little bit of a skeptic in the beginning," admitted Sgt. Tom Payne, head of the 17-dog canine corps. "But it was free . . . and I figured we couldn't lose." They didn't.
In an examination in his office, Winter discovered that Clodo's problem was a misaligned spine, probably the result of an unnoticed injury.
Clodo was muzzled at first, because no one knew how he might react to Winter's manipulations of his spine. But after a few visits, Clodo was better.
"After the first couple of adjustments, he knew we were trying to help him and he just lay there," Winter said.
The improvement was nothing short of dramatic. By early summer, Clodo was his old enthusiastic self. And by July, the Police Department put him back on patrol.
On Friday, Police Chief Bill Kolender presented Winter with two plaques for community service, and Morel gave him a special canine corps shirt.
Winter accepted the awards with modesty. "I'm nothing special," he said in an interview. "I happen to like dogs. Chiropractors are on some zoo staffs . . . and do this stuff all the time. I've worked on a lot worse than Clodo, much worse."
Winter, who hopes publicity about Clodo will help bring more veterinarians and chiropractors together to help animals, says he began treating dogs about eight years ago.
Winter at one time treated Greyhounds in Tucson, where they are raced like thoroughbred horses. "I got lots of them back to racing," he said. "Before then, if they got hurt, they'd just get shot."
Word of Winter's work with Clodo has led pet owners to call him for help and to inquiries from other chiropractors, he said.
As for Clodo, he now receives spinal adjustments every six to eight weeks. "He's a working dog and needs to keep up his maintenance," Winter said.
Next month, Clodo will travel to Kassel, West Germany, where he was born, to participate in an international competition for police dogs.
Last year, he and Morel placed 8th out of 15 teams, the best of any non-German team.