MOSES LAKE — Hundreds turned out Wednesday to welcome home wounded Moses Lake Police Department patrol dog Chief after he was airlifted to Pullman for emergency surgery Friday.
Residents, public officials, students, first responders and a handful of fellow canines stationed themselves along Pioneer Way or by the police station by noon, waiting in anticipation to greet Chief and his handler, Officer Nick Stewart.
Jill Allyn, a special education teacher, was in attendance along with around 25 Life Skills students. After talking Tuesday night with staff about the next day’s procession, Allyn and school administrators agreed that the event would be an ideal educational opportunity for her students.
“We’re learning about respect and what that means, and we felt it would be a good way to show respect for Chief and his officer, Stewart,” Allyn said in an interview. “Tomorrow in class we’re going to have a lesson about it, and we’re going to talk about how the police officers are so important to our community.”
Every so often as the crowds waited, local police vehicles popped on their loudspeakers and announced Chief’s location along his route, or else thanked the public for their support.
Then, around 1 p.m., the first vehicle of dozens in Chief’s procession crested the hill, and the crowd rushed forward to wave as the vehicles drove by, lifting up flags and handmade signs.
Law enforcement in the procession had come from all over — officers from Okanogan and Spokane, sheriff’s deputies, state troopers and local police — all to support Chief.
Only a few days earlier, late Friday night, it wasn’t clear whether Chief was going to make it to see the next morning. Chief had been shot in the left eye during a chase with an alleged robbery suspect and had to be flown to Pullman for critical care. Even after Chief was stabilized, the first 48 hours were particularly critical.
But the bullet had missed Chief’s brain, and the three-and-a-half-year-old German shepherd made a remarkable recovery over the weekend, according to the veterinarians at Pioneer Veterinary Clinic and the Washington State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital who saved his life.
The procession slowly made its way to the police station, where it was greeted by a number of elected officials, including the city’s recently elected mayor, David Curnel, and its new city manager, Allison Williams.
“Chief is a hero,” Curnel said. “He was injured doing his job, doing his job the way he should do it, so we’re just here to support him.”
Chief’s future is uncertain — in that no one yet knows whether he will spend the rest of his days lounging on Stewart’s couch eating steaks or if he can ever return to duty.
“He will get some doggy psych testing, that type of stuff, and see how the absence of an eye will affect the ability to do his job,” Curnel said. “He’s probably not coming back, but we don’t know that for sure.”
For now, Chief’s health prognosis is encouraging, said Emilia Terradas, a resident in veterinary Emergency and Critical Care at WSU who helped lead medical efforts when Chief arrived in Pullman. He will have to wear a soft muzzle for several weeks as a fracture in his jaw slowly heals, which means he will have to wait a little while for those steaks.
But, to the delight of the community that gathered along the street Wednesday, Moses Lake’s good boy in blue has returned home.
“We love dogs,” said Moses Lake resident Jonathan Hayes as he held up a giant sign. “We have a few ourselves, and we’re here to support Chief. And he did a great job.”