Two Florida K-9s that were shot in line of duty while protecting their deputies were honored with Purple Heart awards on November 17.
K-9s Endo and Ax with the Volusia Sheriff’s Office were both hit by bullets while chasing an armed carjacking suspect in September. According to deputies, Ax was shot in the face while chasing the suspect through the woods, and Endo was shot in the paw and the chin almost two hours later when confronting the suspect.
Both of the injured dogs received Purple Hearts and Medals of Honor from Irondog K9, a nonprofit organization that supports K-9 teams with training and equipment, and raises money to pay for injured dogs’ medical bills. The brave dogs appeared alongside their handlers, Deputy A.J. Davis and Deputy Brett Whitson, at a ceremony to receive the honors.
“There is no doubt that K-9 Ax and K-9 Endo took bullets that were meant for my deputies,” Sheriff Mike Chitwood said in a media briefing after the event. “If the deputies would have gone into the woods, the first person to come in contact with [the suspect], without a doubt, would have been shot.”
According to Chitwood, the dogs had to be pulled away from the suspect even after they had been shot. Fortunately, they recovered fairly quickly after the incident.
This wasn’t Endo’s first time getting shot and receiving an award. He was shot in the neck when responding to a domestic violence call back in 2016, and received the agency’s Medal of Valor and a Purple Heart afterward. Endo is retiring after nearly a decade of service and two survived shootings.
Chitwood said that immediately after the shootings, Irondog reached out to pay for the K-9s’ medical bills.
“It was this incredible, heartwarming email saying that whatever your organization needs, whatever Endo and Ax need, we got you,” Chitwood said. “We got medical bills, we got training — you tell us what you want.”
The organization has contributed more than $25,000 to the Volusia Sheriff’s Office for medical bills, first aid kits and a three-day medic training class for all of the agency’s K-9 handlers, according to Fox News.
Irondog K9’s founder, Mitzi Nash, commented, “Our job is to support these law enforcement K-9s and their handlers, and we are so excited to be able to be here for them.”