Editor’s note: In honor of Behind the Badge OC’s one-year anniversary, we will be sharing the 30 most-read stories. This story was originally published May 18.
It was unclear if the 110-pound German shepherd would ever work again.
After being assaulted by a convicted felon, Cypress Police Department K-9 Sem spent 32 days in recovery.
Doctors said he may be looking at an early retirement.
Sem’s partner, Officer Becky Mathias, was optimistic he would return.
On Wednesday, May 6, she was happy to give him the command that signaled it was time to work again.
“Car!” she told Sem.
His ears perked, he squealed and sprinted to the car, taking his place in the back seat.
“He was so jazzed, he was super excited,” Mathias said. “You could tell he was ready to be back.”
Sem and Mathias, along with other Cypress and La Palma officers, were involved in a high-speed pursuit of a felony suspect at about 12:30 a.m. April 3.
A 40-year-old man evaded police on a domestic violence call, leading officers on a pursuit that ended near the southbound 405 and 605 freeway split.
When the suspect reached into his waistband, Mathias unleashed Sem.
Sem lunged at the suspect’s chest and the two wrestled, disappearing into the thick foliage of the embankment.
The 7-year-old K-9 was violently assaulted by the suspect, who recently was released from prison after serving time for voluntary manslaughter.
Sem suffered a pneumothorax, which essentially is a collapsed lung. Air leaked from the lung and into the chest cavity, putting pressure on the heart and lungs.
The K-9 underwent an emergency procedure to release a liter of air that had built up in his chest.
The veterinarian this week gave Sem clearance to return to work.
“He’s still healing, but he is ready to come back,” Mathias said. “There is still a little gap between his chest cavity and his lung, but the doctor said that will be his new normal.”
Sem barked and howled the whole drive to work May 6.
The first four hours of his shift involved training on various scenarios including searches, felony car stops and suspect pursuits.
“He was just on point,” Mathias said.
So eager to be back with his uniformed partner, Sem bounded into the front seat of the car with Mathias after one of the training scenarios.
“I have never seen him do that before,” she said. “It was like he was saying, ‘OK mom, I”m ready to go.’”
After training, Sem and Mathias patrolled the streets.
The night was quiet, unlike the Easter Sunday that temporarily left Mathias without her partner.
But quiet doesn’t last, and Mathias said the department is grateful for Sem’s return.
“Officer safety is the whole reason we have a K-9; they help find people, find items, find suspects or find dope,” she said. “It’s a comfort to know he’s back.”