Bruno the dog with Officer RJ Young
Courtesy City of Anaheim/Municipal Government
05/05/2014 at 05:45 PM EDT
It took over a month, but, finally, Bruno is home.
The 7-year-old German shepherd, who was hailed a hero in March
for saving lives after he was shot in the jaw at point-blank range by a fleeing gang member in Anaheim, California, was released from the hospital on Friday. The pooch, who happily ran out the doors of the Yorba Regional Animal Hospital and into a patrol car, will continue his recovery at the home of his former partner, Officer RJ Young.
"We're all elated," says veterinarian Dr. Stephen Dunbar, who treated the dog's life-threatening injuries. "This case is extremely rare. It's not very common to get a dog with a gunshot wound. But his prognosis is very good."
The dog, who had been the lead canine in the Anaheim Police Department, alerted officers that 21-year-old suspect Robert Moreno Jr. was hiding behind a trash can on March 20. The suspect stood up and started shooting at the direction of the officers and purposely aimed and shot Bruno.
After the terrifying incident, which left the shooter dead at the scene, Bruno underwent surgery to remove part of his damaged lung and repair his shattered jaw (the bullet exited his mouth and lodged in his chest, less than an inch from his heart). During a subsequent surgery, his breathing tube was removed, and the bottom portion of his tongue was reattached.
"He's doing extremely well for all of the serious injuries and surgeries he went through," adds Dunbar. "His jaw is progressing nicely. That's one thing we are still going to follow along. We inserted plates into his jaw to replace the original pins, and that will make a difference."
Continues Dunbar: "I think longterm Bruno's bones are healing well, and he should be 100 percent in time."
And that's a huge relief for Young, who plans to shower the pup with plenty of treats in his golden years of retirement from the police force (kangaroo meat and oatmeal are the dog's favorites). Bruno's official retirement ceremony is scheduled for May 13.
"It's a whole lot of emotions," Young says. "I'm excited. I'm anxious. I'm nervous. A whole lot of emotions running through me. I didn't think this day would ever get here."
Having his canine partner away from his side has been a real challenge for Young, who said in March that his "entire world came tumbling down" when he watched Bruno get shot.
"I'm excited to get Bruno home because I think that's going to help with his healing process," he says. "It's been hard doing all of my daily duties without my partner there. Honestly, it's been tough. But having him home with me is the best feeling in the world."
When Bruno arrived home, several police K9 units from all over Orange County lined the street to give the pup a hero's salute. The acknowledgements of his service won't end there: Bruno will also be honored as the grand marshall of Anaheim's Fourth of July parade this summer.
Click on the video below to see Bruno check out (like only a canine can!) from the Yorba Regional Animal Hospital on Friday.