The smile on K-9 Bruno's handler beams like a proud father.
Anaheim Police Officer RJ Young is used to seeing Bruno every day, but he's had to keep his recent veterinarian visits short to keep Bruno from getting too excited as he recovers from being shot in the mouth while on duty.
"I have to do what's best for him, not what's best for me," Young told NBC4. "And what's best for him right now is rest, calmness, relaxing and a lot of sleep."
Anaheim police dog Bruno was shot March 20 when he found a probationer who also shot at police hiding inside a trash bin. The bullet shattered Bruno’s lower jaw and re-entered his chest, missing his heart by less than an inch.
Young feared that day might have been his last assignment with the German shepherd, his partner for the last six years. Watching the shooting from just 10 feet away, the gravity of the situation didn't immediately sink in.
"I don't remember hearing the gunshot," said Young, who has been partnered with Bruno longer than he's been with his wife or children.
Police returned fire, shooting and killing 21-year-old Robert Moreno Jr. after he shot Bruno. Young instinctually called out to Bruno to come to him, and the injured dog made his way back.
The pair reunited for the first time since the shooting during an emotional doctor's office visit earlier this week (shown at right). Young said the best part of that day was laying down with "his boy" for 10 minutes. Even still, he recounts the pain he endured just watching Bruno suffer.
"Looking back, part of me thinks I should have been in the backseat with him, but to be honest with you, the only thing that was going through my head right then and there was, 'Nobody's going to get him to the hospital faster than me,'" Young said.
Bruno has since had a lung removed and has received blood from two of his fellow K-9 officers. He is still in critical condition but doctors said the dog is"making leaps and bounds considering what he has been through."
Bruno will now be retired from the line of duty, and though Young knows Bruno loves his life at home, he knows he loves work just as much.
"He's like me, he loves what he does," Young said. "He lives to be in that car. He lives to come to work."