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Ligonier Twp. Police K-9 In Stable Condition After Head-On Crash

MONROEVILLE (KDKA) -- The Ligonier Township Police K-9 injured in a head-on crash that claimed his partner's life early Tuesday morning continues to recover at a local animal hospital.

Lt. Eric Eslary was killed in the crash along Route 30 around 2 a.m. His K-9 partner, Blek, was with him as they patrolled the area and were struck by a van traveling the wrong way down the road.

Blek is now being treated for his injuries at AVETS, which is a trauma center in Monroeville. The animal hospital has been inundated with calls about Blek's condition.

He is in stable condition.

"He is relatively stable. He did have trouble with his back legs initially after the accident, but he's able to bear weight and walk on them," said Dr. Megan Kaplan, a critical care specialist. "He is not paralyzed at this time."

Blek, a 6-year-old police K-9, is being held in the intensive care unit. The medical goal is to keep the Shepard calm and let him get stronger after the trauma.

"He is resting comfortably," said Dr. Kaplan. "He seems to be pretty calm; his vitals are holding steady, so he'll remain with us for the next 24 to 48 hours."

What is a little less clear for Blek is what happens next.

At the time of the crash, he was so protective of his partner, Blek didn't want to leave Lt. Eslary's side or take orders from any other officer.

"His partner, Blek, is a fully protective of Eric," said Ligonier Township Police Chief Michael Matrunics. "When I would walk near the car, even though Blek's been with me, smelled me, I got to spend time with him, Blek still would bark like crazy when I would step next to the car."

Officers who responded to the crash say the only thing they could do to get Blek to stand down was bring Lt. Eslary's wife to the scene. She was able to give Blek commands that got him to leave his partner's side.

In an interview he gave back in 2009, Eslary said of his K-9 partner, "They're part of the family and they're with you pretty much 24 hours a day. They could protect you any second of the day, and they're there to protect you and help the other officers in the community."

Police departments from across the region have organized a sort of vigil outside AVETS Animal Hospital. Officers and their K9 partners are taking shifts to show their support for Blek and the lieutenant's family. They told KDKA's Kym Gable someone will be positioned at the clinic around the clock.

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