K-9 community rallies behind boy battling cancer

'We love him just like our own kids,' says a deputy

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - A K-9 training session may seem like a strange place for a six-year-old, but Stephen Hohauser is perfectly at home running drills on the Oakland Community College’s Auburn Hills Campus.

RELATED: Donated blood keeping 5-year-old Rochester Hills boy 'Stephen Strong'

By his side, Deputy Bob Loken, a master trainer for the Oakland County Sheriff's K-9 Unit.

Loken is used to working in difficult and dangerous conditions. But the mere mention of Hohauser brings him to tears.

"If we could, we'd take that cancer out of him and put in us in a heartbeat," said Loken.

Loken's wife is a nurse at Children's Hospital where Hohauser has been treated for neuroblastoma. When she discovered Hohauser loved K-9's -- "They started showing him pictures of my police k-9, and he really liked it," said Loken.

They got an idea.

"Ask all the K-9 brothers and sisters out there to step up and, you know, and make this kid smile, so with that, it just took a matter of a like a day, two days, and it was a spread throughout the country," said Loken.

The close-knit K-9 community immediately began sharing photos of their dogs on the "Stephen Strong" Facebook page. Two years later, they haven't stopped.

Hohauser, his big sister Angela, and their mom Mariana have become part of the K-9 officer family. 

"Oh I couldn't have done this without them," said Mariana Hohauser. "When I say this is what he lives for, this is the stuff that he lives for. Hanging out with these guys, and you know, running their dogs with them and just being one of the guys. They don't treat him any different."

"We love him just like our own kids, you know, and our dogs love him too," said Loken. The feeling is mutual.

"They're awesome," said Stephen Hohauser. "They help me out, and they stay right next to my side."

The Oakland County Sheriff's Office recently got a new K-9 from the Netherlands. They named him "Sturk," the Dutch word for "strong."

For all of their training, it's Hohauser who has taught these deputies the ultimate lesson. "Anybody can make excuses why life is tough," said Loken. "He's really taught us those so-called problems out there are no problems. This is what life is about here."

And they're not going anywhere. "We just tell him, 'Hey you know, Stephen Strong, stay strong, and we're with you buddy, all the way. No matter what you're going through, we're there."

You can help Hohauser and other children with neuroblastoma by donating blood and by supporting the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation here.

Gardner-White is sponsoring multiple Metro Detroit blood drives Thursday to help maintain healthy blood supplies. By giving blood, donors may be helping someone like 5-year-old Emery Twehues, who was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia last spring. For more information on the locations and times of the blood drives, click here.

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