GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Update: During K-9 Kai's recovery, after being shot in the line of duty, his vet team decided to amputate the patrol dog's leg.
"This week Kai underwent surgery that we are happy to report was a success," the Gwinnett Police Department said. "He is currently at home being taken care of by his handler, Cpl. Carlyle."
It was a homecoming fit for a hero Tuesday. Gwinnett Police K-9 Kai got to return home from the vet with his partner Corporal Aaron Carlyle after the police dog was shot twice in the line of duty back in May.
Multiple law enforcement agencies gathered to welcome home the 2-year-old K-9 officer. Kai is a dual-purpose narcotics and patrol K-9, which means he helps with searching, tracking and finding evidence that has been discarded. He was shot once in the chest and once in his hindquarters– one of the bullets hit his hip bone– while he was tracking a dangerous suspect in the woods.
The beloved K-9 had been working with Cpl. Carlyle for nearly a year in the field, when the tragedy occurred.
"He's a hero to me and the officers that were on that track that night because he took rounds that were meant for us," Cpl. Carlyle said. "And he never faltered from his job. And we went home that night to our families, and for him to be able to walk out today is amazing, so amazing."
This wasn't the first time tragedy had struck a beloved K-9 of the Gwinnett County Police Department. Nearly two years ago, the department laid to rest K-9 Blue when he was killed in the line of duty while tracking a suspect.
"We've actually trained that scenario several times. I think this shows that the training worked and we were able to get Kai to where he needed to as quickly as possible," Cpl. Carlyle said.
Cpl. Carlyle added that it's an unfortunate reality that law enforcement face in their line of work, as their K-9 partners accompany them on 12-hour+ shifts.
"They're our partners, they're in the cars with us," Cpl. Carlyle said. "They're with us at our house, they come home with us. They become part of our families."
Cpl. Carlyle knew he had to jump into action when K-9 Kai had been shot.
"We offered what little first-aid we could to him prior to him getting here [the vet]. I think that's probably the difference in why he was able to walk out of here today and us, as officers, were also able to walk out of the woods that day," he said.
K-9 Kai was given a quick assessment and rushed by police escort to the emergency 24-hour vet to get the treatment he needed. He had to have wound treatments, X-rays, a blood and plasma transfusion, and one of his lungs had a small hole in it.
After several weeks with his vet team, the rambunctious K-9 is finally ready to head home with Cpl. Carlyle but he still has a long road to recovery ahead with physical therapy.
"We're taking each day one at a time and we're only thinking good thoughts," he said.
Cpl. Carlyle added that if his physical therapy exercises don't go according to plan, he'll remain at home as "the most spoiled pet ever."
K-9 Kai has received an outpouring of love locally and nationally.
"There is a big support for these animals, what they do for us and what they do for the community," Cpl. Carlyle said. "I just want to say thank you to all of those people that have showed thankfulness for his service and also our service. It means a lot to us."