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Saving Chief: WSU vets care for K‑9 unit dog shot on duty

Emilia Terradas and McKenzie Dress on a sidewalk with Chief.
Emilia Terradas, a resident in veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, and tech assistant McKenzie Dress pose with Chief, a Moses Lake Police Department K‑9 unit, during a bathroom break Wednesday morning outside WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Thanks to life-saving efforts by Washington State University veterinarians, one of Moses Lake’s four‑legged finest returned home today—just days after suffering a gunshot wound to the head.

“Chief,” a Moses Lake Police Department K‑9 Unit dog, was shot through his left eye while pursuing a robbery suspect late Friday night.

In need of emergency care, the three-and-a-half-year-old German shepherd was airlifted to Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport and transported in the early morning hours Saturday to WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

“We weren’t sure if he was going to make it,” said Emilia Terradas, a resident in veterinary Emergency and Critical Care. “I was very worried about him.”

Chief arrived at the hospital with a low heart rate, blood running from his nose and was struggling to breathe due to swelling in the mouth from the gunshot.

Dr. Terradas was on call and arrived at the hospital at 2:45 a.m. to assist Veterinary Intern Dr. Cristian Martinez Alvarez, Veterinary Technician Lucas Bisel, Tech Assistant McKenzie Dress and fourth‑year veterinary student Chantelle Khambholja in stabilizing Chief. Veterinary Neurology Resident Dr. Jessica Chavera also assisted.

There was a high concern for a possible brain injury making the first 24 to 48 hours critical.

The next step for the vets was to determine if the dog’s brain was impacted by the .22‑caliber bullet.

Following a CT scan, and to the surprise of veterinarians, the bullet went through the dog’s left eye and shattered his jawbone, missing the brain entirely.

“That gunshot wound, if it was angled a little differently, it would have killed him,” Dr. Terradas said.

Chief had his eye surgically removed Tuesday afternoon. Now, he just needs his jawbone to heal.

“He has been very lucky,” Dr. Terradas said.

Chief will be met with a police procession this morning when he is discharged from the hospital.

Agencies throughout eastern Washington, including Moses Lake, Pullman and Spokane will be in attendance.

It’s uncertain if Chief will return to active duty.

Officer Nick Stewart, Chief’s handler, said it’s a possibility but the No. 1 concern right now is the dog’s wellbeing.

“I’m just excited to get him home,” Stewart said.

He said he’s forever grateful for the veterinarians at WSU and at the Pioneer Veterinary Clinic in Moses Lake who cared for his partner.

“If it wasn’t for them he wouldn’t have made it,” Stewart said. “Thanking them isn’t enough.”

Chief will return to WSU in six to eight weeks for his recheck.

Dr. Terradas said it’s cases like these that attracted her to veterinary medicine.

“Emergency cases are beautiful because you can make a difference. It’s true you have a high rate of euthaniasia cases, but you have cases like this that make it totally worth it,” Dr. Terradas said. “I would much rather be here than at a party on a Saturday night.”

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