A Santa Monica police officer is determined to return to work with his canine partner, Enno, despite the injuries they both suffered in a car accident last spring.
Officer Larry Horn and the 6-year-old German shepherd were seriously hurt last June when the police car driven by Horn went out of control during a high-speed chase on Pacific Coast Highway. The car struck a concrete light standard, throwing the dog about 100 feet.
The Police Department decided to retire Enno, who underwent three operations for internal injuries and was diagnosed as having spinal cord injuries.
But Horn refused to accept the decision. "I told them, 'It's not fair, give us a chance,' " he said. Word came that the department would put off a decision on Enno.
Even though Horn was still on crutches, he started working the dog, slowly bringing him back to his former weight (90 pounds) and strength. He made a training aid from a piece of burlap and encouraged Enno and the family's German shepherd puppy to tug on it. Enno was ordered to walk up and down the stairs to strengthen and gain control of his hindquarters.
At first, Enno was so weak the puppy could knock him over.
Now, five months later, the shepherd has made what veterinarian Mary Dulisch calls a "miraculous recovery."
Enno, Dulisch said, is ready to go back to work.
"Physically, the dog is incredible," Dulisch said. "This is the kind of dog that needs to work. It's . . . in his personality. Some dogs wouldn't have recovered. He is a fighter." Police Chief James Keane said he fears that the dog will panic the first time he gets in a police car and hears a siren. Dulisch disagrees.
"At the last visit the dog was 98% normal," she said. "I can't imagine him being unable to go to the force at this time. I wouldn't say that if I thought the dog was in any trouble."
Keane said he hopes Dulisch is right because there is no provision in the department's budget for another dog. The shepherds come from Germany and cost about $3,500 each. They receive three weeks of training with handlers at a special school and two more months of on-the-job training.
Enno and Horn, who lives in Simi Valley, form one of the police department's three canine units.
Enno has healed faster than his human partner, who was pulled from his burning patrol car by other officers. Horn still wears a brace on his right leg, which had compound fractures in two bones. Doctors tell him he will not be able to return to work until at least February.
Because a police dog is trained to work only with one person, Enno will not be reevaluated by the department until Horn returns, Keane said.
"I love my job and I can't get back to work soon enough," Horn said. "My hope is we can go back together as a team."