Donations pour in to help Major

The Roseville Police Department and veterinarians from the University of Minnesota held a press conference Nov. 24 at the U of M's Veterinarian Medical Center in Falcon Heights to update the public on Roseville police dog Major's medical condition.

Major was badly injured Nov. 12 when he and his partner, Officer John Jorgensen, responded to an alarm call at Truck Utilities in Maplewood. While struggling with a suspect Major was stabbed four times with what police later determined was a butterfly knife.

See accompanying article for a full wrap-up of the crime and suspects.

As it currently stands, Major is recovering well from his stab wounds and a lung injury. He can't use his back legs yet, but is responding to sensation in that area, something that's considered a key milestone in the recovery process.

More friends than your average dog
Roseville Police Chief Rick Mathwig explained Major's medical bill is up to about $13,500 and the expense will come out of the city's police budget.

However, it appears Major has more friends than your average dog, because donations have come in from across the country and world as dog-lovers far and wide have followed the big German shepherd's recovery.

"So far we've received over $5,300," Mathwig noted, adding most of the donations have come in small amounts.

Mathwig explained the department spent considerable money training Major, and the dog has shown incredible heroism several times and has also won a very large number of awards for his skill and intelligence, meaning he's a key member of the department. With that in mind, the chief said the department is determined to cover Major's expenses and his care won't be cut off, but the chief is hoping more donations come in.

"There's still a need," he said.

Mathwig also said many of the animals being treated at the University have to rest and sleep on the floor, and the animals often need blankets and towels, items the University accepts as donations. Blankets shouldn't have stuffing in them because the animals often chew on their bedding.

"That dog smile"
Jorgensen said he's been encouraged by the level of care Major has received at the University.

"The care we've gotten here at the Vet Center has been phenomenal," he explained, adding the people who have voiced support for Major has meant a great deal to him.

As for the night of the attack, Jorgensen said there's no doubt in his mind the suspects knew Major was a police dog and also knew a significant police presence was on site.

"Anyone around there knew what was going on," Jorgensen said.

Let off his lead, Major quickly picked up a suspect's scent, that suspect, identified in the criminal complaint as Roel Joseph Perez Jr. After locating Perez, the complaint alleges he attacked Major.

Jorgensen said he could hear Major cry out in a way that made Jorgensen sure the animal was injured. The officer explained Major is an extremely obedient dog and when the animal didn't respond to as many as 30 calls, Jorgensen had an ominous feeling about his partner of more than seven years.

"It was making me think it would be the worse case scenario," Jorgensen added.

When Jorgensen found Major, bloody and badly injured, the dog once again showed his loyalty to his partner.

"I could see he was trying to crawl toward me," Jorgensen said.

"He had that dog smile, his tongue was hanging out, we were glad to see each other," he continued."

Jorgensen said the goal was simple.

"I was just hoping we could get him here, breathing and alive," he said in reference to the University.

As another officer drove, Jorgensen sat in the back of a squad comforting Major. They were met the curb by University staff.

The stoic and business-like approach of the staff helped calm Jorgensen.

"It helped me out a lot," he noted.

Jorgensen spends hours everyday with Major and is at nearly all of his sometimes grueling rehab sessions.

"He'd never leave me, so I need to be here," he said.

Major is clearly eager to get back to chasing a tennis ball and the fact he can't yet use his back legs frustrates and confuses him. For Jorgensen, the fact Major wants to get back to his normal routine isn't a surprise.

"They want to work," he noted.

Jorgensen explained it's also important for him to learn care techniques for when Major gets home.

As for the night of the crime, Jorgensen said he was glad Major was there, but he doesn't accept the notion the suspects didn't know Major was a police dog.

"You're angry, you're frustrated," he said of the situation.

"K-9 work is dangerous, they're [the dogs] are leading you to danger," Jorgensen continued. "I feel lucky he's still with me."

A joy to work with
Dr. Lisa Powell said the quick response was a key to Major's survival.

"The emergency team did a fantastic job," she noted.

Dr. Nathan Rose, one of the surgeons involved in Major's care, explained that one of the stab wounds fragmented a bone on Major's spine, which likely caused the paralysis in his back legs.

However, Rose has been encouraged by the slow and steady progress Major has made.

"Major has been recovering well from his stab wounds," Rose explained.

While doctors are optimistic Major will be able to walk again, a return to duty is less certain.

"This could be a career ending injury," Rose said.

Later in the press conference, Rose said, "He could recover fully from this."

Currently, medical staff is working with Major on range of motion exercises and on an underwater treadmill. The dog is also receiving electrical stimulation in his back legs. Staff will also have to work with Major on re-learning to control his bladder and bowels, because the paralysis has taken that ability from him.

Major has quickly won over the staff.

"He's been a joy to work with," Rose said, adding the dog has a lot of drive and is a willing participant in his treatment.

Rose said it could be anywhere from six weeks to six months before doctors know just how much Major will recover from his injuries.

"It's time dependent," he noted.

"It's going to take Major a long time to recover," Rose also said.

George Fairbanks can be reached at gfairbanks@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813.

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