The red-nosed American pit bull terrier, Achilles, lay on the floor of his master's hallway, bleeding and slowly dying. A home burglar had shot the dog twice, in the left eye and left leg. The first officer on the scene attended to finding the thief while the dog's owner, Louis Russell, paced the driveway. He wanted to recover his valuables and help find the culprit, but he was also worried. His buddy needed help fast. The second officer at the Iris Street home that morning in early November headed straight for the white dog with the brown splotch on his head. Like Russell, St. Petersburg police Officer Chrisie Lopez is an animal lover.
Lopez, 30, who drives a patrol car in District 2, the north district, is the kind of cop who takes in stray dogs. She keeps dog biscuits and spare leashes in her trunk. Other officers know she has a way with animals, especially dogs. Her dream is to be a canine officer.
Dispatchers hadn't summoned her to Russell's home that morning. But Lopez wasn't busy, Russell's home wasn't far and Lopez heard the radio squawk about a wounded canine.
When she got out of her car on the 4100 block of Iris Street N, "she pretty much went straight for my dog," Russell said.
Inside the home, the 80-pound dog was stiff. His chest heaved. Blood was down the hallway and even up on the ceiling.
Russell told Lopez he'd called the county's animal services agency for assistance. But the seven-year police veteran knew one of their units might take too long to arrive.
She told Russell that she was once a veterinary technician. She could see when a dog was dying, and Achilles still had plenty of fight in him.
"He was suffering, but he was breathing pretty well," Lopez said. "I told him if he wanted to get medical attention for the dog … put him in the back passenger seat of my car."
Russell promptly did. Lopez didn't put on her siren because it was a straight shot up 16th Street to Noah's Place Animal Medical Center. Achilles whined faintly in the back seat. In minutes, she was helping veterinarians carry him into the emergency room. He was immediately put on a machine to help him breathe.
Lopez went back to work, but returned to the clinic a few hours later as her shift ended to deliver a $100 check toward the bill.
"I wanted so bad to help out that dog," she said. She knew Russell could use the funds.
She learned that the dog was in so much shock and lost so much blood that veterinarians never began to operate.
Later that afternoon, Russell got a call from the clinic. They were advising him to pull the plug, which he did because he didn't want to see his dog suffer. Achilles was 5 years old.
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The thief who broke into Russell's home has not been found, and the sweet-natured dog Russell raised from a pup is gone. Russell and his girlfriend have moved and now have an English bulldog named Mayhem.
Russell thinks often of the police officer who impressed him that November morning.
"She didn't have to do that," Russell said. "I am very thankful for what she did to try to save my dog."