DPS K-9 supervising recovery of trooper injured by suspected impaired driver

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(Source: Arizona DPS via Twitter) (Source: Arizona DPS via Twitter)

A Department of Public Safety trooper who was injured when a suspected impaired driver rear-ended his vehicle is on the mend under the close supervision of his partner – K-9 Zorro.

DPS on Monday tweeted a photo of Zorro checking in on his charge, Trooper John Armstrong.

Armstrong has been in the hospital since Feb. 8. He and a DPS sergeant were in a box truck to deliver dog food to DPS K-9 units throughout the state.

A suspected impaired driver, later identified as Van R. Rothermel, 19, of Tempe, rear-ended that box truck on Interstate 17 south of Flagstaff. The impact caused the truck to roll.

[ORIGINAL STORY: Impairment suspected in crash that injured DPS sergeant and trooper]

While the sergeant suffered minor injuries, Armstrong was badly hurt. Those injuries, including a broken leg, were not life-threatening but serious enough to keep him at Flagstaff Medical Center for more than two weeks now.

In the photo tweeted by DPS Monday, Armstrong and Zorro looked quite happy to see each other. (Proper care of their human partners is just one of many duties performed by K-9s, and Zorro appears to be quite adept at it.)

The bond between K-9 and handler is usually incredibly strong; they trust each other with their lives. 

"Most co-workers spend an average of nine hours a day together, then go their separate ways," Slone Wayking, a professional in the veterinary field, wrote on Mom.me in November. "The K-9 officer and his dog are a 24-hour-a-day package. They live together, work together and play. The officer is responsible for feeding, grooming and general health. They trust each other completely and are there to protect and to serve the public, as well as each other, on a consistent basis. It's more than a handler and dog relationship; it's often an equal partnership, as well as two friends keeping each other company, on and off duty."

Armstrong is recovering, according to DPS, but there's no word yet on when he might be released from the hospital or when he might be back on the job with Zorro.

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As for Rothermel, he is facing charges of DUI, aggravated assault, endangerment and drug possession.

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