FAYETTEVILLE, NC -- Over the past year, Officer Jared Backey and his K-9 Rambo have seized 200 grams of narcotics, completed 64 article searches, and made 14 felony drug arrests.
They've trained for nearly 700 hours together. Backey and Rambo know one another.
So when the Fayetteville Police dog let out a deep groan after his nap Tuesday afternoon, and he didn't get excited about coming out his kennel, Backey knew something was wrong.
"He had a complete behavior change," said Backey. "And I noticed his abdomen was pushed out."
It turns out Backey got his K-9 to the Animal Hospital of Fayetteville just in time. Rambo's stomach had flipped due to a condition called gastric torsion. Gas was literally building up in Rambo's stomach causing severe bloating.
If Rambo had gotten to the doctor an hour later he could have died doctors said.
Rambo, an 8-year-old Dutch Shepard and Malinois mix, underwent an hour and half of surgery and had a severely damaged spleen removed Tuesday evening.
Dr. Emma Corrigan performed Rambo's surgery and said he was ready for duty almost immediately.
"He got up within five minutes and was ready to run out the front door," she laughed. "He was ready to get some bad guys."
Corrigan said it can be hard to pinpoint the cause for gastric torsion, but the condition can affect deep chested dogs if they've eaten something out of the ordinary, or faced too much activity after eating. It can also be triggered by panic attacks that cause too much air to build up inside the dog at once.
Corrigan said because Backey knew Rambo so well, he saved his life.
"It's important that the handler notice the signs, and the officer knew his dog," she said.
When Rambo came trotting out for discharge Wednesday afternoon, he went straight to Backey for a good hug and kiss.
"I'm just glad he's okay," said Backey. "I was freaking out. It feels like one of your kids."
NC police K-9 survives close call with medical condition