K-9 Rambo rallies after gun shot injury

Officer Devin Alford remained by 14-month-old German Shepherd Rambo’s side after he suffered a gunshot wound and was airlifted to Ohio State Veterinary Medical Center.

Critical care team treats airlifted canine 

On Sunday, July 30, at 10 p.m., Ohio State’s Veterinary Medical Center Emergency and Critical Care Service team received an unusual call. 

The Logan County Police Department was on the phone to say they would be airlifting Rambo, an injured K-9, to the Veterinary Medical Center to treat gunshot wounds he sustained while on the job. A bullet had struck the 14-month-old German Shepherd while he was inside the police cruiser during a domestic violence call. 

The team at Ohio State was prepared and had decided in recent years to ensure that any animals arriving by helicopter could be received on the intramural athletic field across the street from the facility, says Emily McConnelly, DVM, assistant professor in the department of veterinary clinical services. 

“We sent two of our nurses with a gurney to receive Rambo,” she says. “Knowing he had been shot, we were prepared for the worst, assuming that he would be in critical condition, but were surprised that he arrived as good as he did.” 

Several bullets braised Rambo’s face, another made a small laceration through his right ear, and the bullet that lodged under his right eye avoided nerve damage. 

Rambo hard at work during training with the Logan County Police Department.

“Rambo was very fortunate,” says McConnelly. 

An initial assessment showed the K-9’s cardiovascular condition was stable – with good heart rate and blood pressure readings, and he did not lose much blood. The team cleaned his wounds and gave him pain medication. 

The lodged bullet was left in place, McConnelly says. “Unless the bullet is causing trouble, like being in a joint, we leave it be.” 

Rambo remained for six hours for observation and was discharged from the hospital with instructions to administer anti-inflammatory and pain medications. He also needed to stay calm for about two weeks afterward. “That’s a big ask of a working dog,” says McConnelly. “Plus, he’s a very social dog — so he went home with sedation to help with his recovery.” 

Because he is a working dog, it was important that Rambo’s manager, Officer Devin Alford, remain with him the entire time during his visit to the emergency room, McConnelly adds. A student also accompanied Rambo during his examination and treatment. 

Alford, also a paramedic, had treated Rambo’s wounds on the ground after learning he was shot, while another officer called for air medical assistance. “Rambo plays a pivotal role in our department in getting drug dealers off the street,” he says.

“Rambo is a dual-purpose K-9, working narcotics and apprehension as well as tracking and doing article searches.”  

A few weeks later, Rambo was back to work. “He is doing wonderful and we’re very appreciative of the team at Ohio State’s Veterinary Medical Center’s efforts,” Alford says. 

The Veterinary Medical Center works with 75 local, state, and federal agencies to provide care for the dogs and horses who work in partnership with their human handlers to protect our communities. From the Austin Mounted Unit in Cincinnati to the Zanesville Police Department, in the last five years, it has provided care during more than 130 appointments for these animals and their handlers, including emergent life-saving care like Rambo’s. 

While Ohio State’s Veterinary Medical Center’s Emergency and Critical Care Service team often see dogfight trauma cases, McConnelly says, gunshot wounds like Rambo’s are rarer, and it was a learning experience for the students and interns. “I think the biggest thing I enjoy here is how closely we work as a team,” McConnelly says.  

The exceptional care that Rambo received illustrates our ambition to Be The Model® for excellence in academic veterinary medicine and the referral veterinary medical center of choice.