A bullet shattered one of his vertebrae, but surgeons were able to save the German shepherd's life. Thankfully, he's now at home looking at an early retirement.

By Austin Cannon
Updated February 18, 2021
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A Washington K-9 officer who was shot on duty last month was treated to a festive welcome-home celebration after surgeons saved his life. Now, he's receiving an award for his courage.

Arlo, a K-9 officer with the Thurston County sheriff's office who you might know from his popular TikTok account, was shot twice Jan. 13 when he and his handler were involved in a shooting with a suspect, authorities said

K-9 welcomed home after shooting
Credit: Courtesy of Thurston County-Sheriff

After receiving initial treatment in Washington, the dog was taken to Oregon State University's Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine for surgery. KGW8 reports that Arlo had only a 60 percent chance of survival after the bullets shattered his C6 vertebrae, lodged near his spine, and injured one of his legs. 

"It's a miracle that Arlo's still alive," orthopedic veterinary surgeon Jen Warnock told KGW8. "... The bullet missed an artery that would've killed him by a millimeter; it could've destroyed his carotid artery. He's unlucky but lucky at the same time." 

Warnock was the surgeon who repaired the damage to Arlo's vertebrae. She told KGW8 that the shoulder where the bullet did the most damage is where he's weakest, but by Sunday he was outside and completing physical therapy

The Monday after the shooting was the happiest day, however, because Arlo got to go home. In a video posted to Facebook, officers lined the entryway of the hospital to see him limp out of the hospital, offering him a soft chorus of "good boy." 

Officers and firefighters, presumably from nearby jurisdictions, stopped on highway overpasses to offer tributes to the 3-year-old German shepherd as his car drove on the highway under them. He arrived home to even more fanfare, plenty of first responders were there to welcome him back with flashing lights and a celebratory "Welcome Home, Arlo" sign in his front yard. 

On Thursday, the American Kennel Club announced that Arlo would receive its 2021 AKC Paw of Courage award, which is given to dogs who honorably serve their communities.

"K9 Arlo of the Thurston County Sheriff's Department is a shining example of the dedication, selflessness and loyalty that working dogs exhibit in the line of duty," AKC Executive Secretary, Gina DiNardo said in a statement. "He risks his life each and every day to protect his community and we are honored to recognize him with a Paw of Courage award. We wish him a speedy recovery as he heals from his recent injury."

So far, a GoFundMe page has raised more than $73,000 to help pay for Arlo's medical bills. (The Thurston County K-9 program is funded through donations.) 

"K-9 Arlo and I can't express the amount of gratitude we have for everyone that has helped us with this journey," Deputy Tyler Turpin, his handler, wrote on TikTok. "I'm not embarrassed to tell you that I've cried so much." 

The pup has more than 1.2 million followers on the video-sharing app, and the most recent posts about his recovery have each received millions of views. Arlo earned his K-9 certification in 2019. 

"He's an amazing dog," K-9 unit supervisor Sgt. Rod Ditrich told KGW8. "He's just so enthusiastic, and he's one of our most vocal, energetic dogs that we've got—he just is always happy, wants to please, just an amazing animal. Super easy to train. He lives for the job—that's all he wants to do is please Deputy Turpin and perform the job of a police K-9."

KGW8 reports that he will likely be unable to return to active duty because of his injuries. He's also at greater risk of suffering from arthritis. Thankfully, Turpin should be able to adopt him and keep him as a pet, the TV station reports.