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Healing A Canine Cop

Audio

Aired 10/29/10

A shootout in San Diego’s Skyline neighborhood this week left three people dead, including police officer Christopher Wilson. But one member of the San Diego PD survived being shot. That was Monty, a Belgian Malinois who took a bullet in the muzzle.

— A shootout in San Diego’s Skyline neighborhood this week left three people dead, including police officer Christopher Wilson. But one member of the San Diego PD survived being shot. That was Monty, a Belgian Malinois who took a bullet in the muzzle.

Veterinarian Robert Tugend operated on Monty, the San Diego police dog who was shot in the Skyline area.
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Above: Veterinarian Robert Tugend operated on Monty, the San Diego police dog who was shot in the Skyline area.

Robert Tugend was the veterinarian who operated on Monty. He says police use dogs to make deadly ordeals more safe.

“Their primary function is to protect life, to diminish the amount of risk to both the people they're looking for and certainly to the officers,” said Tugend.

Sadly, Monty did not prevent the loss of life on Thursday. As for Monty’s condition, Tugend said he’s stable. Monty lost two teeth and suffered serious damage to bone and soft tissue. Tugend says he has yet to decide whether Monty will be physically fit to go back on duty. For one thing, being shot in the muzzle can affect a canine cop’s sense of smell.

“Dogs, unlike people, have a lot of internal nasal stuff,” said Tugend. “It’s what we call nasal ‘terbinates’ that allow dogs to be such great smellers. And his nasal terbinates were damaged and they’re quite bloody.”

A dog's sense of smell is up to 100 times more sensitive than a human's.

Tugend works at the VCA Main Street Animal Hospital, which has a long-standing relationship with the San Diego police canine unit. Look around Tugend’s office and you see photos of other police dogs who have been injured in action. A police dog named Earp is shown with his police handler. Earp was stabbed in pursuit of a suspect, but he also survived.

The Belgian Malinois, Monty’s breed, looks like a German Shepherd. But Turgend says it’s a different dog that’s more aggressive.

“A German Shepherd is more of a thinker. If he gets himself into a situation he’ll tend to look around a little bit and say 'Maybe it's better if I go around to the right or around to the left.' Malinois don't tend to do that. They go straight in and take care of whatever they're going to do, and think about the consequences later,” said Turgend.

The full consequences of Monty’s bullet wound are not yet known. Tugend said police dogs, who are injured on the job, can become skittish. It will be up to the canine unit to decide whether Monty’s is psychologically able to go back into action.

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