Dramatic Rescue Saves Heroic Police Dog
Saving an animal's life is rewarding and especially so if the animal is a real-life hero. When police dog Pluto was shot during a shoot out with robbers, it was thanks to the team at Hillcrest Veterinary Hospital and the rapid reaction of the police Airwing that bought him back from the brink.
Inspector Albert Maphumulo and his German Shepherd Pluto came under fire while responding to an armed robbery in Isipingo, KwaZulu-Natal. Pluto reacted swiftly, slipping his chain and charging at the gunmen through a hail of bullets, giving his handler the opportunity to return fire. During the ensuring gun battle, three of the suspects were killed and three were injured. The bite wounds on one were testimony to Pluto's bravery; he had continued to attack in spite of having being shot. After the battle Maphumulo found Pluto lying beside the patrol vehicle, as he had been trained to do, he was gravely injured and "sinking fast".
Fortunately the police Airwing was nearby and able to airlift the dog to Hillcrest Veterinary Hospital. "The Metro Police were fantastic and closed the Main Road in Hillcrest to allow the helicopter to land," said Dr Helen Pringle. "If Pluto hadn't got to us as quickly I don't think he would have made it. His pulse was 260 and he'd suffered severe blood loss. It was a dramatic resuscitation, with us having to give him a blood transfusion and high volumes of intravenous fluid on arrival."
It took several hours to stabilise Pluto, with an exhausted and blood-soaked Maphumulo keeping constant vigil. Forty-eight hours later, Pluto was finally pronounced out of danger.
Whilst in their care Dr Pringle detected "a mild spondylosis" in Pluto's spine. "The obvious recommendation was to put him onto Hill's j/d and Hill's were only too happy to sponsor the food for this very special dog. His recovery has been outstanding. It is hard to believe he's eight years old. Inspector Maphumulo had told me that before the incident, Pluto was showing signs of slowing down a little and his retirement was looming. Now he's back to his old self and working with more energy than ever."
Inspector Maphumulo, Constable Rodrigues and Pluto, are members of the Durban South Dog Unit, a team that boasts one of the highest arrest rates in the province. All three now bear similar 'scars of battle' on their necks, each having been shot in the line of duty, but are undeterred in their battle against crime.
Dr Helen Pringle spent two years working for the Police Dog Unit's Veterinary Services prior to moving over into private practice. She and the Hillcrest Veterinary Hospital team continue to care for several of the SAPS dogs.