UNCG police K-9 back to work after lung surgery

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- For a cold, cloudy, dreary afternoon, there was plenty of excitement at the UNC Greensboro Police Department.

"She is coming back strong. She is a pistol," UNCG Master Police Officer Aaron Austin said.

Austin is working his K-9 partner, Tinkerbell, through her drills. Tinkerbell, or Tink, responded to all of Austin's commands. As a reward, Austin gave Tinkerbell her favorite chew toy. It's an exciting time at UNCG because about six weeks ago, no one was sure if Tinkerbell would be able to perform her job again.

"I noticed she wasn't acting right," Austin said. "We've been a team for six years. So I pick up on her behavior more than a lot of people would."

Austin explained that in mid-September, Tinkerbell had a hard time breathing. Turns out she had a collapsed lung and air was filling her chest. Surgery was needed and vets removed a part of her lung. The operation took several hours. This time Tink's partner, Austin, couldn't help her.

"Very hard. She is with me more than my family is," Austin said.

Tinkerbell made it through surgery and spent several weeks recovering at Austin's home. At times, Austin felt the recovery was just as painful as the operation.

"Every time she sees me in a uniform, that was the hardest part of the recovery. She would see me get into the uniform she would get all excited and she wanted to come to work," Austin said.

Finally the time has arrived. Tinkerbell is rejoining UNCG's K-9 team.

"I am happy and relieved that I get more time with her. She loves coming to work. She loves doing what she does," Austin said.

Tinkerbell, along with another K-9 Sasha, specialize in search and recovery. The K-9s other duty is acting as university ambassadors.

"We do demonstrations at elementary schools or churches or on our campus. She is a sweet, loving girl," Austin said.

While Tinkerbell is easing back into her role, Austin is thrilled to have his partner back and thankful for all the people that donated money to help cover Tink's surgery.

"It was tough, but it was nice to see everyone reach out to help us through the process. It was a very expensive process. And without everyone who reached out, we wouldn't have been able to do it," Austin said.

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