CEDAR CITY, Utah - The Cedar City Police Department is waiting to hear if one of their officers can return to duty. The department's K-9 Pajko was injured during a pursuit last month.
Pajko suffered two herniated disks in his neck, received while taking down a suspect during an April 26 pursuit. Pajko's handler, Officer Jason Thomas, says it will be a slow recovery as they wait for the veterinarian to clear Pajko for his return.
"We're keeping him pretty sedated so for the time being so that he has that chance to recover," says Thomas.
Thomas says after Pajko was injured, they rushed the dog to a Las Vegas specialty hospital. There, Pajko underwent surgery to repair the herniated disks. After several days in the hospital, he was allowed to come home. That's where Pajko has been ever since.
"They gave us five to six weeks, then we'll have a good idea of what his recovery is going to be," says Thomas. "Now he's just suffering from weakness. And we're hoping that will just come back over time."
But there's a chance Pajko may not come back. Non-profit group Friends of Iron County Police K-9 says the outpouring of support for Pajko has been overwhelming. The police dogs have a large part in the community.
"It impacts us all," says group board member Jerry VanIwaarden. "I don't think it's coincidental that we were able to be up and going when this situation happened with Pajko. I think it's fortunate because we've already had some fairly large donations come in."
Those donations will help offset medical costs since most city budgets don't have a lot of room to cover expensive surgeries. Those funds would also go to support Pajko in the event he is forced into retirement.
As for Thomas, he says it's an emotional time as he waits, and goes back to work without his partner.
"There's such a bond there, with the handler and these police dogs, they are our partner, we rely on them and they rely on us," says Thomas. "This is the best assignment I've had."
If he is retired, Pajko would stay in the community, Thomas says Pajko has been a valuable part of the department and they'll want to keep him close.
You can follow Pajko's recovery process on the Friends of Iron County Police K-9 Facebook page.