Canine Officer Bobi's Story
Most of the animals that we see and treat here have stories. They're all exceptional in one way or another, and they're all accompanied by families who love and support them in the way only animal lovers can. This year however, we had the pleasure to meet an owner and a dog who weren't just family - they were partners. Officer Dave Dogali of the Stamford Police brought his K-9 partner Bobi to us for surgery to address severe back pain. During his time here, Bobi not only captured the hearts and admiration of the staff with his strength and personality, but he and Officer Dogali left an impression with their love and unwavering dedication to their partnership both on and off duty.
Officer Dogali was kind enough to share his experiences with Bobi and insights into the world of police officers and their K-9 partners:
" Bobi just turned five on July 12. He was born in the Czech Republic and was trained and certified as a title one Shutzhund canine in Romania. Bobi is an energetic, high-drive canine with an incredible work ethic. In 2009, we began our four month training together after meeting and bonding for about six weeks. Upon completion of our canine academy, we became a certified canine team through the North American Police Work Dog Association and the Connecticut Police Work Dog Association. Bobi is a certified Narcotics Canine Detector with the following capabilities: Tracking, Evidence Recovery, Building Searches, Area Searches, and Apprehensions.
I initially started seeing signs of discomfort in Bobi when he entered our patrol SUV. When he would leap into the vehicle he would scream in pain and lay on his side until the pain subsided. There were other incidents at home when he would run or climb up stairs and the pain would strike, causing him to drop. I would comfort him for a short time and then it was like nothing ever happened and he was ready for work again with one hundred percent energy.
I contacted Dr. Meenan of Rippowam Hospital who has taken care of Bobi since he was one year old. She thoroughly examined him, suspected there was an issue that needed specialization and sent me to Cornell University Veterinary Specialists to meet with Dr. Oliver Morgan.
My first visit with Dr. Morgan started with an incredible staff that welcomed both Bobi and I. There was a sense of “We’re here for you and we’re going to get through this together.” I was then greeted by Dr. Morgan’s technician Rachel Weissman who escorted Bobi and me to our examination room. Rachel was very welcoming and extremely knowledgeable as she knew exactly how to engage Bobi. A short time later, Dr. Oliver Morgan entered our room and introduced himself welcoming us to CUVS. I was immediately impressed with Dr. Morgan’s’ presence as he displayed an aura of professionalism and confidence. He made me feel at ease as we began talking about Bobi’s episodes and symptoms. The visit continued with a physical examination where once again I was taken with how Dr. Morgan knew exactly how to deal with Bobi. As Dr. Morgan examined Bobi, he immediately recognized the issue and recommended an MRI to get a more detailed look at the injury. He explained the details of the MRI and provided additional information including cost and location. Our visit ended a short time after when I was instructed to contact the hospital once the information was relayed to my department and a decision was made to move forward. Bobi and I left the hospital with a sense that CUVS was going to get us through our ordeal.
I proceeded with the MRI and the results were sent to Dr. Morgan where upon examining them, he immediately observed what he initially suspected was the problem. We met again and Dr. Morgan explained Bobi’s diagnosis along with his plan which included performing a Dorsal Laminectomy. Dr. O. Morgan spoke with such confidence in his plan as he told me this was not the first time he encountered, treated and operated on this diagnosis. He advised me that he would provide a detailed report of Bobi’s diagnosis, and his plan of action to my department.
After numerous conversations with Dr. Morgan who completely answered all of my questions and concerns, the time came when I arrived at CUVS for Bobi’s surgery. Once again the hospital staff welcomed me and I met with Rachael and Dr. Morgan. Dr. Morgan went over some last minute information and again gave me the opportunity to address any of my concerns. At that point I was completely prepared and I brought Bobi into the waiting area where we were met by Rachael who took control of him. She advised me that she would contact me as soon as there was any information and I watched Rachael walk Bobi into the treatment area with such ease.
I waited in the front lobby area for a while then responded to my vehicle as I awaited news about Bobi’s surgery. After several hours, Rachael came out and advised me that Bobi was doing well. Her announcement was made with such genuine joy and happiness. I felt such a sense of appreciation that Bobi was being cared for by such professional and compassionate people. A short time after, Dr. Morgan came out to meet with me personally and the expression on his face was that of such excitement and confidence. He advised me that the surgery went terrific; just as he suspected and that Bobi did great. He assured me that the staff was going to take good care of Bobi as he was going to stay the night and that he would give me a follow up phone call later in the evening. I left CUVS in complete confidence that Bobi was getting the best medical care and treatment possible. Dr. Morgan called me later in the evening and advised me that Bobi was recovering beautifully and that he was standing on his own which was a good sign that the surgery went well.
I returned to CUVS the next day as Bobi was ready to be discharged. Upon arrival to the hospital, there was a feeling of pride and excitement in the air as everyone seemed to know about Bobi and who he was. It appeared as though the staff was proud to have been part of treating Bobi whose sole purpose is to help keep our community safe.
The recovery process was a critical part of the post-surgery. Dr. Morgan advised me that Bobi’s movements needed to be completely monitored and controlled to promote a safe and healthy recovery. I knew this was going to be tough due to Bobi’s high energy and drive but my family and I were ready to do whatever was needed to make Bobi’s recovery successful. During the early phase of Bobi’s recovery, my family and I spent many hours keeping Bobi relaxed and comfortable as we sat beside him keeping him content. The e-collar that Bobi wore drove him crazy but it was necessary to keep his wound clean and dry. With some attention and going through two of them, Bobi soon became acclimated to it. Initially I needed use a sling which took some of the pressure off Bobi’s rear legs and gradually got away from it as I controlled Bobi’s walk to a slow pace. I incorporated physical therapy for Bobi throughout the day which included leg manipulations and short periods of time where Bobi had to stand on his own. We then moved on to some short and slow walks to medium length walks to longer walks.
From that time forward, Bobi’s recovery skyrocketed. He was doing terrific so we progressed to some light runs to some longer ones and he did great. We returned to CUVS for another evaluation and after Dr. Morgan’s examination he felt as though Bobi was ready to slowly become acclimated to returning to work. I began taking Bobi to work with me without using him for service calls and continued our workout regimen to get him stronger. A short time after based on Bobi’s superb progress, Dr. Morgan allowed me to start utilizing Bobi for some light police duties. We returned to our monthly K-9 training and I utilized Bobi for a standard narcotics building search and a medium length track. It was as though Bobi never missed a day of training or work as he was spot on and did a terrific job.
As we continued working, we were being utilized on a regular basis for motor vehicle searches, tracking, and building searches. As of returning to work, Bobi has been involved in the following incidents:
We assisted with numerous vehicle searches with narcotic finds
We assisted the Narcotics and Organized Crime Unit with narcotic search warrants
We responded to numerous residential and commercial burglaries and cleared the buildings
We responded to a call involving a gunman and cleared the apartment with a five man entry team
We responded to numerous robberies and attempted tracks
We tracked and apprehended a suspect of a domestic assault
We assisted in apprehending a burglar suspect
These were just a few incidents where Bobi was utilized and he’s continuing to do a terrific job. One of my canine trainers Erich Grasso stated, “Bobi had so much energy and drive before his surgery, now his energy is going to be through the roof.” Erich was right, Bobi’s energy and drive is through the roof and it’s all because of Dr. O. Morgan and the staff at Cornell Hospital. If Dr. Morgan was not involved in Bobi’s surgery, I would not be here today with such a successful story. I am so grateful to so many people. As I stated before and I will repeat, Bobi is truly an incredible blessed Police Canine. He has so much training and experience under his belt and such a future as a Police Canine. Without Dr. Morgan’s’ assistance I don’t believe he would have been able fulfill his destiny.
As we spoke earlier about special people involved in Bobi’s experience, I must mention about a special person who has been there almost as long as I have had Bobi. She is best known by some as the "Fairy Godmother" for dogs on the force. A long-time Stamford resident, I met her early in my K-9 career as my department advised me that she had heard about our newly established canine unit and wanted to donate bullet proof vests for our canines. I remember meeting her the day that our canines were fitted for their vests. She sat nearby with a family member and watched with such joy as each canine was brought in and fitted for their vest. A short time after returning to work, I was advised that she had become aware of Bobi’s surgery and contacted the Stamford Police Department to make arrangements to take care of Bobi’s surgical costs. Once again I was I was taken aback by the generosity, care, and love for Bobi that this "fairy godmother" had. My department, our unit, and I were and are so grateful for her donation.
I will never forget how so many people assisted with Bobi’s surgery and once again I would like to mention and thank them all.Dr. Oliver Morgan, Rachael Weissman, the whole Cornell Hospital Staff, Dr. Kathleen Meenan DVM, Stamford Police Chief Jon Fontneau, Stamford Assistant Police Chief James Matheny, Mr. Joseph Hickey, Sgt. Richard Phelan, the Stamford Police Canine Unit including our trainers and decoys, and the whole Stamford Police Dept. who had Bobi in their thoughts and prayers."
Bobi's surgeon, Dr. Oliver Morgan, provided a little more information about the medical side of Bobi's condition and treatment. “Bobi has a disease called lumbosacral degenerative stenosis (LDS), which can result in neurologic signs associated with spinal cord compression in the region of the lower back. Bobi was having acute pain while working as a police dog and was non-responsive to medical management. While his signs were relatively subtle in that he could still walk well, his discomfort while working was going to permanently prevent him from being a working police dog.
Following an MRI that revealed compression of the spinal cord at the region of L7-S1 (lower back area over the pelvis) a dorsal laminectomy was performed that involves making a window into the spinal canal and removing the source of the compression. Some of these patients also require stabilization though Bobi did not.
I am so pleased that Bobi is back by Officer Dogali’s side as a police dog with the Stamford Police. His owner followed his rehabilitation diligently and his outcome is a testament to both Bobi and his owner working together to facilitate a good result."