It could have turned out much worse for Pako, an Air Force 96th Security Forces Squadron military working dog.

Suffering heat stroke and in severe respiratory distress, Pako was on the edge of cardiac arrest on a hot day last June. At one point, his heart stopped beating.

“I will never forget the moment I saw Pako’s life slip away,” said Tech. Sgt. Bryan Bowermaster, Eglin Air Force Base’s kennel master and a dog handler for seven years. “His pupils dilated to a point where you could no longer see the brown of his eyes.”

Army Sgt. Kelli Helfinstine, base veterinary technician, gives Pako, a 96th Security Forces Squadron, a scratch on the head after her Air Force Achievement Medal ceremony Feb. 6 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Helfinstine was awarded the medal for her efforts in saving Pako’s life when he suffered a heat stroke and almost died in June. (Samuel King Jr./Air Force)
Army Sgt. Kelli Helfinstine, base veterinary technician, gives Pako, a 96th Security Forces Squadron, a scratch on the head after her Air Force Achievement Medal ceremony Feb. 6 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Helfinstine was awarded the medal for her efforts in saving Pako’s life when he suffered a heat stroke and almost died in June. (Samuel King Jr./Air Force)

Pako and his handler, Staff Sgt. Radames Leon, had been participating in an exercise on a hot June day when the dog started showing signs of distress, which led to a cancellation of the exercise and eventually an emergency trip to the base’s veterinary clinic.

“This was the most severe heat injury I have encountered,” the clinic’s Army Sgt. Kelli Helfinstine told the Air Force. Helfinstine received the Air Force Achievement Medal on Feb. 6 for her efforts in Pako.

Staff Sgt. Radames Leon and Pako are a 96th Security Forces Squadron military working dog team at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Last year, on a hostile suspect exercise, Pako suffered a heat stroke and almost lost his life. The base veterinary clinic helped revive him and bring him back through CPR procedures. He beat almost insurmountable odds (for dogs) to survive heat stroke and CPR to make a full recovery. Samuel King Jr./Air Force)
Staff Sgt. Radames Leon and Pako are a 96th Security Forces Squadron military working dog team at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Last year, on a hostile suspect exercise, Pako suffered a heat stroke and almost lost his life. The base veterinary clinic helped revive him and bring him back through CPR procedures. He beat almost insurmountable odds (for dogs) to survive heat stroke and CPR to make a full recovery. Samuel King Jr./Air Force)

But all was not lost for Pako. After about 10 minutes of chest compressions and oxygen ventilation, Pako’s pulse returned. Both recovering from heat stroke and as a result of CPR are extremely rare for a dog, said Helfinstine.

After days and weeks of recovery and rehabilitation, Pako received the nickname “zombie dog” and is back working “just as hard now as he did before his injury,” Bowermaster said.