Bodie, the Sacramento police dog shot and critically injured by a suspected car thief nearly a year ago, is retiring from patrol duties to focus on community relations.
The 5-year-old German shepherd has made a remarkable recovery from his gunshot wounds. But spinal surgery in January for a herniated disc raised concerns that the demands of police work, like leaping a 6-foot fence, could result in permanent injury, said veterinarian Robert Runyan of VCA Sacramento Veterinary Referral Center, who treated Bodie.
"He's a trooper," Runyan said.
Bodie was presented with his reserve K-9 badge during a news conference Wednesday afternoon at the Police Department's K-9 training facility at McClellan Park.
Sgt. Steve Oliveira, supervisor of the K-9 unit, said Bodie will continue to serve the Police Department by visiting schools and participating in community events.
Bodie also will mentor his successor, 14-month-old Bosko, a German shepherd from Slovakia who is expected to join Bodie's handler Officer Randy Van Dusen on patrol sometime this summer. Both Bodie and Bosko live with the Van Dusen family.
Van Dusen said the two dogs get along well.
"Bosko helps keep Bodie occupied," Van Dusen said, noting that retirement is difficult for a working dog, who still longs to join his handler on the job.
"Bodie will sit and whine at the door after we leave, but he is so thrilled when we come home at night," Van Dusen said.
Van Dusen, an ultra runner, said he takes Bodie on short runs.
His new partner, Bosko, is the first community-sponsored dog in the history of the Sacramento Police Department's K-9 unit, a result of the outpouring of support for the injured Bodie.
The community raised nearly $50,000, Oliveira said. That was enough to cover Bodie's medical bills, which were upward of $20,000, and the $7,500 to purchase Bosko, Van Dusen said. The funds will also help cover Bodie's medical costs in retirement.
Oliveira said he has no doubt that Bodie saved an officer's life when the dog was shot trying to apprehend suspected car thief Lucus Jerome Webb, 33, following a car chase and foot pursuit through Land Park.
Webb fired at Van Dusen, striking Bodie. The bullet shattered the dog's jawbone and two toes, and almost severed his tongue.
Webb died in the exchange of gunfire that followed.
Bodie nearly bled to death. Van Dusen said the dog received 17 units of blood when he arrived at the veterinary hospital and subsequently underwent five major surgeries.
Bodie's story has drawn Facebook fans worldwide. If the K-9 unit doesn't post an update on his condition every five days or so, people start asking how he's doing, Oliveira said.
The department will continue to post updates on Bodie's retirement activities, as well as on Bosko and two other dogs in training, Dutch and Hobbes. The K-9 unit has a total of nine dogs, including the new recruits.
During his recovery, Bodie has visited schools, where he revels in the attention from adoring students.
"He gets all the ear scratching he can stand," Van Dusen said.
Although the man who shot Bodie is dead, his girlfriend, Leslie Marie McCulley, was ordered to stand trial on a charge of attempted murder in the shooting. Prosecutors charged McCulley under the theory that she aided and abetted Webb when he fired on Bodie.
According to Sacramento Superior Court online records, McCulley is scheduled for trial May 29.
Van Dusen said he doesn't expect Bodie to appear in court. "I'll be there on his behalf," he said.
Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.