Like many Spectrum Health employees, Fix Karcher has a big heart.
But Fix also receives praise for his keen nose. He can sniff out bombs and track and apprehend bad guys on command.
Like the other three Spectrum Health police dogs, Fix is a four-legged legend. He brings comfort to patients, stress relief to employees and smiles to visitors.
Fix and his work partner, Officer Derek Karcher, strolled the halls of Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital on a recent weekday. It’s part of their job.
While in the Inpatient Rehabilitation Center at Blodgett Hospital, nurses made over Fix like he was a rock star in their midst. They scratched his head and hindquarters. Fix laid down, then rolled over so they could reach his belly.
“We love Fix and the guy who walks him, too,” said Keri Gerken, RN.
Staff get a boost from seeing Fix, but it’s the patients who often benefit the most.
“Our patients on this floor are here for a longer period of time so they are missing their family and pets more,” Karcher said.
Fix at home
Fix is from the former Czech Republic. He came to Spectrum Health in July of 2014.
“I chose to keep the name because it’s unique and it’s perfect for a hospital,” Karcher said. “We Fix the patients, we Fix the bad guys and we Fix (attitudes) when they need a little adjustment.”
Karcher pulled a ball-on-a-rope from his pocket. Fix’s ears perked up, but he resisted the instinct to grab the toy. Karcher swung the ball back and forth in front of the canine’s face. Fix’s head moved with the sway.
“Take it,” Karcher eventually said. Fix chomped down on the ball, his tail wagging.
Fix and the rest of his police dog counterparts are highly trained in several languages, including Czech, German and English.
They live at home with their handlers and their families. Karcher’s kids adore Fix. His daughter won’t go to bed without first hugging the lovable pup.
“She’ll say, ‘Daddy, he’s not giving me a hug,’” Karcher said. “She’ll be hanging off of him and Fix will look at me like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’”
Fix is still hyper-focused at home, waiting for commands. During the World Series, Karcher put Fix’s food bowl on the floor, but in a rush to not miss the opening pitch, he forgot to give the command to eat.
On a commercial break between innings, Karcher returned to the kitchen to find Fix standing in front of the full food bowl, awaiting the command.
Fix at work
He’s a family pet by night, and a hospital employee by day.
He’s part snuggles, part business.
On this day, he visits Nancy Crater in a fourth-floor patient room. She suffered an auto crash in mid-December and has been going through therapy.
Crater, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, gasped when Fix entered the room.
“Oh, such a good dog,” Crater said, sitting in her wheelchair, stroking Fix’s head. “Can you shake hands with me?”
Karcher explained that he hasn’t taught Fix to shake hands. He doesn’t want the dog listening to commands from anyone except him.
“What a treat to see him again,” Crater said. “Mary, can you take a picture of us on your phone?”
Her visitor, Mary Hellenbrand, grabbed her phone and shot a photo.
“We’ve made a lot of friends on this floor,” Karcher told the ladies. “Lifelong friends.”
But Karcher also elaborated on Fix’s police duties.
“He’s helped locate evidence and he can sweep for bombs,” Karcher said. “We walked with the Secret Service when the King and Queen (of the Netherlands) came. I got to shake Governor Snyder’s hand when he came in. It’s fun. It’s a good gig. I get to hang out with a dog all day. He’s better than people. I can vent and he just listens. He’s OK with every decision I make.”
Fix’s police dog resumé is laden with incidents.
Last June, Fix was deployed to perform explosive searches related to a threatening letter from an incident near an emergency room entrance. Fix searched parking ramps for a suspicious vehicle related to the incident.
Two months before that, Fix sniffed out a suspicious briefcase left in the main lobby of a Priority Health building. He deemed it safe. Turns out, it was mistakenly left behind by a contractor.
Crater continued to stroke the dog’s back and front leg.
“What an amazing gift you’ve given me today,” she said. “This is just a joy. I can’t thank you enough. This has just been a wonderful healing experience.”
After saying goodbye to Crater, Karcher and Fix strolled through the rehab room.
“Oh, there’s a dog,” said patient Charlie Hoey, who recently broke his hip and was working with physical therapist Joe Bush. “What’s his name?”
Karcher led Fix to Hoey’s side.
“I had a shepherd,” Hoey said. “His name was King.”
Hoey pet Fix, then Karcher led his pup to visit other patients who were exercising.
Next, the cop-canine duo headed for more patient rooms, stopping to visit with Carrie Childers, who was in recovering from double knee replacement.
Fix put his paws up on Childers’ bed, as if to greet her.
Childers grabbed her phone and showed Karcher a photo of her own dog, a golden doodle, then proceeded to scratch Fix under his chin.
“It’s nice to come in and let you pet a dog since you can’t pet yours,” Karcher said. “It helps in the healing process.”
Next, Officer Karch visited Lauren Spetoskey, who had been in the hospital three weeks with a liver abscess.
“He’s so cute,” Lauren cried out when Fix entered the room.
Karcher chatted with Spetoskey and her guests. Spetoskey’s sister told him that Spetoskey had called her earlier in the day. Before she even shared the news that she was getting discharged from the hospital that day, she told her that a dog would be coming to visit.
Spetoskey kissed Fix on the forehead.
“It’s nice to have a dog come visit,” she said. “I have two cats at home.”
After Spetoskey’s visit, Karcher led his canine companion to the Garden View Cafe. A crowd gathered around Fix as he stood in the middle of the restaurant, absorbing the love showered upon him.
It’s like that for Fix, no matter where he roams.
“I’m just the guy at the other end of the leash,” Karcher said, laughing.