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K9 Max of the Lubbock (TX) PD was awarded the AKC Paw of Courage after being wounded in the line of duty.

Many dogs want to spend their days chewing on bones, cuddling up to their favorite people, sneaking scraps off the table, and waiting for their owners to get home from work. But, K9 Max isn’t any ordinary dog.

He loves it when he sees his handler in a work uniform.

“When I walk out to the kennel, he’s jumping up and down at the gate,” said Corporal Brock Gruner of the Lubbock Police Department in Texas. “He just kind of hangs out, wanting to get ready to go, run, and have fun at work. He knows when Dad’s in a uniform, we can go play and have fun for the next several hours.”

One Courageous Pup

Unfortunately, Max hasn’t been to work since August 2019, when he was shot while on duty. Corporal Gruner and Max were chasing a teen suspect when the suspect starting firing at them with a stolen pistol. Max was shot twice, once in a paw and once in the rear haunch. Gruner wasn’t sure Max would make it.

“I didn’t know that he was going to be OK until later that night,” explained Gruner. “I initially thought that he had been more severally injured than he was.”

While the 2-year-old Dutch Shepherd has yet to return to work, he’s been healing OK. In recognition of his service, K9 Max has been selected as the 2019 AKC Paw of Courage award winner. The annual award recognizes working dogs that put their lives on the line to keep communities safe.

“K9 Max of the Lubbock Police Department is a prime example of the hard work, loyalty, and dedication that working dogs exhibit in the service of humankind,” said AKC Executive Secretary Gina DiNardo. “He continually risks his life in the line of duty to protect the people of his community and his bravery deserves to be recognized. The 2019 AKC Paw of Courage award gives us an opportunity to pay tribute to the sacrifice that K9 Max has made.”

Max On The Mend

Max is a multi-purpose police dog, trained in narcotics detection as well as criminal apprehension. At the moment, however, it’s unclear when he’ll be able to return to work. Gruner explained that he’s doing alright and eating fine, but is still limping around.

“I can tell he wants to get back to doing something,” he said. “But, with him still limping around the backyard, and not being able to turn, move, and be as active as he normally is, it’s hard for us to really get him ready for getting back to work.”

Max also hasn’t been able to do a true patrol test because he hasn’t been medically cleared yet. If and when he’s cleared, he’ll be tested to see how he would respond in a similar patrol setting. As of right now, the team is waiting to see how K9 Max heals. They will decide whether or not he’ll be able to return in a couple of months.

Gruner said it’s disheartening knowing Max was injured and might not be able to return to work. However, he considers it uplifting knowing that the time spent training and building a relationship with Max helped the dog to be strong enough during the incident.

“He continued doing what I asked him to do in a potentially bad situation, to make sure he did his job,” says Gruner. “I’m very appreciative, being able to get this award and being recognized for having such an amazing dog. In the grand scheme of things, he was put in a situation that I never dreamed of putting him in. But, I couldn’t have asked for a better partner or dog to have at that time to go through that situation with me.”

AKC Paw of Courage

When Max isn’t working, he enjoys spending time in his backyard and chewing on toys just like most dogs. He especially likes when Gruner’s daughter goes out to pet and play with him. If he isn’t able to return to work, Gruner will have the chance to keep Max as a family pet, which he said he would do “without a doubt.”

Any working dog is eligible to receive an AKC Paw of Courage, and nominees are not limited to purebred dogs. To nominate a dog for the next set of Paw of Courage awards, please email communications@akc.org. Recipients of the award will receive an AKC Paw of Courage medal and a certificate of recognition.

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