One week after gunshots left his survival in doubt, Bodie the Sacramento police dog limped out of a veterinary hospital Friday evening, jumped into his handler's patrol car and headed home.
Bodie's recovery is far from over. A cast will remain on a leg for six weeks or more. Next week his jaw essentially will be wired shut to help it heal.
But the 4-year-old German shepherd's prognosis is looking considerably better than when his handler, Officer Randy Van Dusen, rushed him to the VCA Sacramento Veterinary Referral Center on the morning of May 18. Even Bodie's veterinarians are talking about him returning to duty in about six months.
"He's going to get back to work," said a smiling Dr. Christopher Wong. "That (timeline is) very reasonable. Given (that) the jaw is such an important part of his work, we have to make sure it's healed up right."
Bodie's departure from the clinic was celebratory, with well-wishers, fellow K9 officers and their dogs joining the clinic's staff to send him off. The Police Department's helicopter circled above.
Van Dusen, who spent every night at the clinic with Bodie, was emotional, and so, too, were the dog's caregivers.
Van Dusen, whose fatal shooting of the suspect who shot Bodie remains under investigation, has been directed not to speak with the media. But Sgt. Steve Oliveira, head of the K9 unit, said Van Dusen and his colleagues are deeply grateful for the outpouring of support from the community.
On Friday morning, students at Crocker-Riverside Elementary School which was locked down May 18 after Bodie was shot presented K9 Officer Aaron Thompson with $2,000 in donations. That brought to roughly $20,000 the total amount collected to offset Bodie's considerable medical bills.
"It's just amazing the community support we've received not just for Bodie, but for our officers and the department," Oliveira said. "We go to bad situations and people are not always happy to see us, so it's nice to have people supporting us."
According to Sacramento police, Bodie was shot during an incident that began with officers coming across a stolen car. That led to a vehicle chase during which the suspect narrowly missed hitting several small children on the St. Robert's Catholic School campus in Hollywood Park and then a foot chase.
Bodie and Van Dusen chased the suspect into a Land Park backyard, where the suspect turned and shot Bodie. Van Dusen then fatally shot the suspect, later identified as 33-year-old Lucas Webb of Chico, police said.
Bodie was shot twice through the left jaw and once in a paw, and suffered major blood loss before he reached the veterinary center.
His story touched many in the community, especially at Crocker-Riverside Elementary, where Bodie had performed demonstrations with his handler in the past.
"He was protecting us when he got shot, so we should give back," said 11-year-old Grace Wiley, Crocker-Riverside's student body president. "He risked his life for us."
During an assembly, students had a chance to ask Thompson and police Lt. Kathy Lester a few questions, including how Bodie was shot and whether a rumor that leeches were used to help treat the dog was true.
Yes, leeches were in fact used to help reduce Bodie's tongue's swelling, Thompson told the students.
"It was kinda nasty," Thompson acknowledged, "but it worked, I guess."
Sam Korbs, 11, spearheaded the school's fundraising effort because, he said, Bodie's injuries made him "very sad."
"I've met him, actually, personally," Korbs said. "He was one of my favorite dogs."
Hunter MacLennan and Austin Fitzpatrick, 10-year-old Crocker-Riverside students, went to the veterinary hospital Friday afternoon to present Bodie with a blanket to take home with him.
The blanket was blue "because Sac PD is blue," Austin said. "Bodie R Hero" was embroidered on the corner.
"We've been checking (on Bodie's condition) everyday," said Austin's grandmother LeeAnn Fitzpatrick.
She said the shooting's proximity to the school and the danger involved resonated with the children.
"They felt the dog maybe stopped the bad guy from getting on their campus and he also protected his owner," she said. "That made it extra special to them."