Kylie, a 6-year-old German shepherd, was sniffing while searching for possible bones a passerby had reported seeing off a Northern Virginia highway.
The trained D.C. fire department dog and her handler, Sgt. Gene Ryan, were looking in a heavily wooded area Tuesday off George Washington Memorial Parkway near Four Mile Run, which separates Arlington County and the city of Alexandria.
Kylie did not see a hidden fence and became impaled on it, fire officials said. She injured her front legs and was bleeding badly when Ryan called for help.
Ryan got her off the fence and, with the help of the Arlington County Fire Department, removed her from the woods.
Realizing she could die of her injury, officials requested use of the U.S. Park Police medevac helicopter, which flew Kylie to a landing site at Woodrow Wilson High School in the District. From there, the injured dog was shuttled by a waiting Park Police cruiser to the nearby Friendship Hospital for Animals.
The agencies helping the dog probably saved her life, rescuers said, and the 80-pound champion sniffer will probably return to work after a summer hiatus.
“She’ll be on leave with treats,” Ryan said at a news conference with Kylie upon her release Wednesday from Friendship Hospital for Animals.
Ryan said that Kylie was injured by rebar during the search but that he was not initially aware of the injury, because she continued “doing what she was supposed to do.”
After realizing Kylie was bleeding, Ryan said he carried her more than a mile out of woods so thick that other fire personnel cut their way out using a machete.
After direct pressure and a tourniquet would not stop the bleeding, the airlift got her to Friendship in Northwest Washington in about 20 minutes, which probably saved her life, Ryan said.
“Kylie is a rock star,” he said. “She never stops. . . . I’m just the guy on the end of the leash.”
Animal experts discovered during the two-hour surgery that she had severed a main artery and two large veins in her right front leg. She also suffered nerve damage, which led to a second procedure later in the day.
D.C. Fire spokesman Vito Maggiolo said Wednesday that her “prognosis was excellent,” considering her condition when she arrived. Kylie received about five pints of blood and was put on a respirator.
Kylie is one of four specialty dogs with the District fire department, working as a cadaver dog specializing in finding human remains, Maggiolo said.
Kylie came to work for the department five years ago after Ryan rescued her from a shelter. Maggiolo said that she was going to be euthanized but that Ryan “saw her potential for the kind of work that needed to be done” at the department. She spent two years in training, Ryan said, and lives with him and his wife and four children.
Park Police said they needed Kylie’s help Tuesday in searching for possible bones in Virginia after receiving a report from a passerby. Officials said it is not uncommon for the agency to get calls about bones, which typically are determined to belong to animals.
Sgt. Eduardo Delgado, a Park Police spokesman, said that the bones were not found and that it was unclear whether crews were “going to go back out and search.”
If not for the action of several agencies, Maggiolo said, Kylie might have bled to death.
“She’s really considered part of our fire department family,” he said. “We treat her as we would have treated any of our members who would have suffered a medical emergency and need attention.”