On a routine police call in January, 28-year-old East Hartford Canine Police Officer Todd Mona entered a pitch-black apartment in a tough neighborhood. His police dog Primo was at his side.
Chaos greeted the pair. Within moments, a flood of gunfire shattered the young officer’s leg, immobilizing him.
Primo, who was stabbed multiple times, retreated to the police car. There he lay bleeding, whimpering and waiting for his master.
Inside, as the young officer struggled to maintain consciousness, he could think of nothing but Primo. The two had endured two years of intensive training, never apart, even for a moment.
Fast forward to the Hospital for Special Care, the nation’s only complex rehabilitation and chronic disease hospital for adults and children.
Here, the young officer battled infection and other complications of a bullet still lodged perilously close to his femoral artery. In his lucid moments he asked for Primo, who lay recovering in a kennel. “I’m his Dad,” he would say.
Then, members of the young officer’s medical team, headed by Dr. William Pesce, had an idea: Unite the dog and his master so they both might recover together at the Hospital for Special Care.
That’s when medicine met miracle.
“It wasn’t until Primo began recovering by my side that I began to heal,” recalls Officer Mona. The malaise lifted too; the officer and his dog could be seen each day moving about the hallways of the Hospital for Special Care. People noticed; their own spirits lifted.
“Home was brought here, with friends and family, and finally my dog,” said the officer. “They helped me take my mind off the pain.”
Gradually, Todd moved from bed to wheelchair to crutches, gaining back some strength and range of motion. Then it was on to physical therapy, an endeavor he describes as grueling, but effective.
His inpatient physical therapists, Kylie Dec, PT and Robyn Cop, OT patiently worked with the officer, his ever vigilant dog by his side. Finally, the officer was discharged, with the prospect of months of outpatient therapy.
“I chose to come back to the Hospital for Special Care [for outpatient therapy] though another facility was closer to home,” he recalls. The result of that choice caused him to “meet my match” with outpatient therapist, Jake Hunter, PT. “We’re both young and athletic. Jake knows the level of fitness I need to get to before I can go back to the force. He’s pushing me to be the best I can possibly be.”
Officer Mona looks forward to his next rehabilitation conquest: warm water therapy in the Hospital for Special Care’s 27,000 square-foot Aquatic Center. “I can’t wait to get in,” he smiles.
Police work is still months of therapy away, but now within sight. As a recent recipient of the Wasson Memorial Award, the highest honor for canine police work in Connecticut, Todd Mona wants nothing more than to return to active duty.
He leans down to pet a now rambunctious Primo, impatient with the long interview process. “Ready to go get the bad guys?” says the young officer, lifting his voice high. Primo jumps to his feet, snapping an anxious glance at the officer. “We’ll both be ready,” confirms his master.