Highland Park, Community

RIP K9 Dax — Lake County’s hero police dog

Just two days after his retirement ceremony, which honored nine years of extraordinary and heroic service in the line of duty, Lake County police dog Dax has died. He was 10 years old.

Dax suffered serious injuries to his neck and spine on March 3 while trying to help apprehend a suspect. He regained movement in his hind quarters, but was diagnosed with cervical and thoracolumbar intervertebral disc disease and was in pain, according to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

Dax was celebrated at a retirement ceremony on Thursday, April 10. He spent Saturday morning on the beachfront with longtime handler Deputy John Forlenza before he was put to rest, the department said.

“K9 Dax will always hold a special place in our hearts, and we are incredibly saddened by his passing,” Sheriff John D. Idleburg said in a statement. “K9 Dax will be remembered for the lives he saved, violent offenders he apprehended, and drugs he kept from being distributed in our community. Please keep the Forlenza family in your thoughts and prayers.”

Dax, a German shepherd, joined the Lake County Sheriff’s Department in 2015. He has been part of the department’s most successful searches, including the location of more than 400 missing people and felons and the seizure of hundreds of pounds of drugs, millions of dollars and dozens of firearms.

He was on scene in Highland Park on July 4, 2022, assisting in the search for an active shooter.

Dax has been praised by local, state and national institutions, including the Illinois House of Representatives, the German Shepherd Dog Club of America and The K9s of Valor Foundation. 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, and he was profiled by People Magazine, ESPN, the Hallmark Channel and nearly every Chicago TV station over the years.

He’s also made friends with countless people throughout the community during his regular participation in local and school demonstrations.

When Dax’s retirement was announced, Forlenza said in a press release, “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. 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. I’d like to especially thank Dax’s supporters, team of veterinarians, trainers, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, and my family and friends for all their support throughout his career.”

The Record is a nonprofit, nonpartisan community newsroom that relies on reader support to fuel its independent local journalism.

Subscribe to The Record to fund responsible news coverage for your community.

Already a subscriber? You can make a tax-deductible donation at any time.

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

Related Stories