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San Diego police dog on the mend, handler hopes he can return to work

March 26, 2009 |  3:55 pm

Earp and his handler, Sgt. Jess Havin It's almost a cliche: a police officer on his final days on the job faces the most dangerous situation of his career.

So it happened to Earp, a San Diego police dog. Ordered to "bite and hold" a murder suspect, Earp was slashed in the throat by the knife-wielding man.

Sgt. Jess Havin, Earp's handler, grabbed his downed partner and raced to the veterinarian's office. Departmental policy restricts the use of Code 3 and doesn't address the issue of a downed police dog.

Regardless, Havin used lights and siren in his squad car all the way. "I did it," he said. "I'd do it again."

Within five minutes, Earp was in emergency surgery to stop the bleeding. A few minutes longer, the departmental veterinarian said, and Earp would have been dead.

Now it's six days later, and Earp is doing "remarkably well," Havin told reporters Thursday. Next week Earp is set to have his sutures removed.

The 8-year-old German shepherd had been due to retire within weeks. Havin hopes Earp can get back to patrol for at least a short while before his retirement.

After that, he'll retire to Havin's home, along with another retired police dog.

The bond between officer and dog is tight. "I spend more time with this dog than I do with my family," said Havin, a 24-year veteran of the department and 15-year veteran of the K-9 squad.

For Earp, it was the first time he's been ordered to grab a suspect. But he's found his share of drugs, "barked a few suspects into custody" and found a stolen police gun, Havin said.

"He's had a good career," Havin said.

--Tony Perry, San Diego

Photo: San Diego Sgt. Jess Havin and Earp. Credit: San Diego Police Department.

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