The Banning veterinarian who removed bullet fragments from an injured K9 officer's paw-- and amputated one of his toes-- says that his patient is making a nice recovery and is hopeful he'll eventually be able to get back to work in law enforcement.
Dr. Ryan Westbrook, of the Banning Veterinary Hospital, tells Banning-Beaumont Patch that though his canine patient Ranger went through quite the trauma, he is already making good improvements.
"I just took the bandages off," he told Patch on Thursday evening. "I think he's going to do great. I couldn't even tell that he was missing a toe for his gait [the way he walks] today. Three days out, you couldn't even tell."
Westbrook, who says he treats police K9s all the time, says it would have been "medically close to impossible" to save the toe, as it was shattered when bullet fragments hit it on Dec. 10.
"It was a copper jacketed hollow point, and so when those hit something solid they just shatter and go," the doctor described. "Like a grenade is made to come a part into a million pieces, those bullets are made to come into a million pieces, and so it just went everywhere."
Westbrook said that both back paws had bullet fragments throughout-- but those injuries weren't even discovered until after Ranger had been at the office for a little while-- when he was on the x-ray table, leaving blood behind near the paws.
At first, the doctor was assessing Ranger's gunshot wound in his chest, and cleaning up the blood from that injury. However, Westbrook adds, the canine did not lose a significant amount.
"There were three holes, so we weren't sure how many bullets there were," he said.
That's when they were able to determine "the [singular] bullet passed through the shoulder, the muscle over the shoulder, out the tricep, and then across the forearm where it opened a laceration through the skin over the forearm."
Once x-rays showed Ranger's lungs weren't damaged, nor any bones in the chest region, Westbrook and his team stitched up one of the holes, but left the other two open to drain.
At that point-- it was time to address the toe issue. Westbrook said he was very concerned with doing what he could to get Ranger back to work.
"We did check to make sure he was going to be able to go right back into service without a toe first," Westbrook said, adding that he waited for word that the CHP would accept a toe-less dog as a working K9 before proceeding with amputation. "If not, we were going to see if there was any body who could work magic, but the lead of the bullet was pasted around the fractured ends of the bone."
Westbook said it's a fairly common surgery to remove dogs' toes, though it was a bit different in this case, since they were trying to make sure Ranger could get back to work as a police dog.
"I always know that I can make them walk, and even run, but can I make them run down suspects and things like that? That was a little bit of the question," he said. "We think he'll be able to do it."
The vet-- who actually is personal friends with Ranger's handler, Officer Brice Murille, since they both volunteer with local boy scout troops-- said the show of support by the law enforcement community was incredible, describing a room full of officers who stopped by to check on Ranger after he'd been shot.
When asked by Patch how he feels about being called a hero himself for helping to save Ranger, the humble veterinarian said he was just doing his job.
"The cops, they're the guys doing the heroic stuff, we're just patching up holes."
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