SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sacramento County Sheriff's patrol dog Drago was released from veterinary hospital care on Saturday after being shot through the chest by a fleeting suspect.
The shooting occurred in the dark early Friday in the Elverta area, when a man fleeing sheriff's deputies shot wildly at his pursuers. One shot hit Drago, resulting in a "through-and-through" chest wound to the dog.
Injuries to the dog included a partially collapsed lung, but no other vital organs were struck. Surgery was not required.
Sheriff's spokeswoman Sgt. Lisa Bowman credited VCA Veterinary Center -- and Drago's own resolve -- for the quick recovery.
"Without a lot of luck ... and Drago's pure determination to get back to work, this never would have been a possibility," Bowman said.
The man suspected of shooting Drago was identified as Robby Joe Woff, 42, of Sacramento, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after he fired at the police dog, sheriff's officials reported. He was being pursued at about 4 a.m. Friday on suspicion of car theft.
Drago, a 6-year-old Belgian Malinois, is recovering at home with his handler, Deputy John Halk, who will be off work at least two weeks to care for Drago. This will include working Drago through rehabilitation exercises several times a day to heal injuries to the dog's right shoulder and leg, which suffered muscle and tendon damage from the bullet trail.
"He even does a strengthening exercise with him where (Drago) stands on three legs to strengthen the weaker one," Bowman said.
Drago will be kept indoors as much as possible to keep him calm and improve healing. No special diet is planned, Bowman said.
"However, you know we will give him treats," she said. "The problem with Drago is he has no idea he is injured and wants to keep moving around. He does need his rest too."
Bowman estimated Drago could be back on duty in two to four weeks. The county is expected to pay for Drago's medical costs, which aren't yet known precisely.