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Bruno ‘took a bullet that was meant for one of us,’ says handler; He’s retiring

Bruno, the police dog who made international news this week, “took a bullet that was meant for one of us” when he signaled that an armed gang member was hiding near a trashcan, his handler said Tuesday.Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 1.18.42 PM

“There’s no doubt in my mind that either me or somebody else would’ve gotten hurt,” said Anaheim Police Officer R.J. Young, 36, Bruno’s partner. “Bruno did exactly what he’s trained to do.”

The gang member opened fire on Thursday afternoon, hitting Bruno in the face. Returning fire, officers killed the suspect.

Young said Bruno will not return to work. “He’s got a long road ahead of him,” Young said. “He’ll be able to lay around and get fat. His new job will be Mr. Big Brother” to Young’s daughter, Grace, who is three months old.

In an interview with Behind the Badge, Young said he wanted to thank the public for its support and to encourage donations to K-9 programs – especially Friends of the Anaheim Police K-9 Association.

“The support we’ve received from the police department, from police departments across the country and from citizens around the world has been amazing,” Young said.

Young described Bruno as a “stud.”

After being shot, he yelped only once. Young scooped him up and raced him to Yorba Regional Animal Hospital, where surgeons worked for three hours to reconstruct his jaw and remove part of a damaged lung.

The round lodged less than an inch from his heart.

Bruno, who is seven years old, stayed on his feet for most of the “longest ride of my life” to the hospital, before finally collapsing, Young said.

“I was banging the cage and calling his name,” Young said. “I kept saying, ‘We’re almost there, Buddy.’ He never cried. He never whined.”

Anaheim police dispatchers radioed the hospital, and they were ready with a gurney when Young and Bruno arrived.

Getting him there so quickly saved his life, Young said, because Bruno had lost so much blood.

On Tuesday, Young, his wife, and daughter brought coffee and sandwiches to thank the hospital staff. “We’ll never be able to repay them for what they did for us,” he said.

Young said he hopes people appreciate that it’s not just him, Bruno and his family dealing with the fallout of being involved in a shooting.

A nine-year APD veteran, Young described Bruno as an outstanding cop.

Early in his career, he found 29 kilos of cocaine during a search.

After the Anaheim Angels’ Nick Adenhart was killed, it was Bruno who initially tracked the hit-and-run driver to railroad tracks that eventually led detectives to find and arrest a suspect.

Another time, Bruno found a suspect armed with a loaded gun hiding in a bush.

“He’s had a phenomenal career,” he said. “And he put his life on the line for us all the time.”

Young said Bruno loves police work. When he’d hear the sound of Young snapping his gun belt, Bruno would head to the front door with his leash.

But he also has a softer side. At work, “he’s Daddy’s boy,” but at home, he dotes on his wife, Rachel, and the baby.

On Sunday, Bruno ate unassisted for the first time. He also went for a short walk. The staff at the animal hospital shared his progress on their Facebook page, and hundreds of thousands of people on social media cheered and shared the positive news. The police department received messages from people in Australia, England and Scotland.

On Sunday, Anaheim’s Friends of the K-9 and Anaheim Buzz held a fund-raiser for Bruno, which Young’s wife attended. The event netted $4,600.

He said he’s remained composed most of the time since Thursday’s shooting. He admitted that when he saw his K-9 partners at the hospital after the shooting he “got a little emotional.”

“The police department has shown that they consider Bruno part of the family,” he said. “They are just as much a cop as any of us.”

On Monday morning, Young enjoyed a 30-minute reunion with Bruno.

Young said he curled up in his kennel with him. “I could’ve just fallen asleep in there with him.”

Interested in helping?

The Friends of the Anaheim Police K-9 Association is collecting donations to cover Bruno’s medical care. Donations can be made at any US Bank or on its website to the “Friends of the Anaheim Police Canine Association – Bruno Donation Account.” Money is also accepted via PayPal to foak9@hotmail.com.