Highland Park, Community

Lake County’s hero police dog Dax will retire following March injury

After nine years of service with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, decorated police canine Dax is retiring.

The retirement announcement comes on the heels of a serious injury to Dax in March. While helping apprehend a suspect on the run, Dax, who is around 10 years old, injured his neck and spine. He was temporarily paralyzed in his hind quarters but has regained mobility in his hind legs, the release says.

Dax’s veterinarians, the release says, recommended that he not return to active duty.

Lake County Sheriff John D. Idleburg ordered Dax turned over to his handler of nine years, Deputy John Forlenza, who thanked all of Dax’s supporters, especially during his recent recovery.

“There is no way to quantify or properly express what Dax’s service has meant to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, the Lake County community, his supporters across the nation, and especially me,” Forlenza said in the release. “But I cannot refrain from stating that his service has been exemplary, and most importantly, he has saved countless lives, including my own.

“I am proud to have been his handler and best friend for the last nine years. Dax is a true hero and well deserving of the rest and love that waits for him in his retirement.”

Dax joined the department in 2015 as a 13-month-old, and with Forleza has located more than 400 missing people and felons and seized hundreds of pounds of drugs, millions of dollars and dozens of firearms, according to the sheriff’s office. He was on scene in Highland Park on July 4, 2022, assisting in the search for the active shooter.

Dax began with the Lake County Sheriff’s Department in 2015.

Dax has been honored by local, state and national institutions, including the Illinois House of Representatives (2016 and 2019) and The German Shepherd Dog Club of America (2023). He was named the K9 of the year by the K9s of Valor Foundation in 2018 and won the Medal of Honor from Illinois Law Enforcement in 2023.

His courage also earned him plenty of attention. Dax was featured in People Magazine, ESPN, the Hallmark Channel, and on nearly every Chicago TV station over the years.

Dax also made innumerable friends throughout the community during his participation in countless local and school demonstrations. He also showed off his versatility in numerous trials across the country, earning six United States Police Canine Association regional championships and two Tracking Exceptional Certifications.

“Deputy John Forlenza and K9 Dax exemplify what a true partnership looks like,” Idleburg said in a statement. “They are among the top canine teams in the nation. There was virtually nothing K9 Dax couldn’t handle. … On behalf of the men and women of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and the Lake County community, thank you, K9 Dax, for your dedication, your commitment, and your service to our community.”

Dax with cards and gifts sent to him in March while he recovered from a spinal injury.

A retirement ceremony will be announced at a future date.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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