02/21/2007

Top cop dog ignores illness, still catching crooks for SLC

By Michael N. Westley
The Salt Lake Tribune

Even the doggie version of chemotherapy can't keep this all-star K-9 on the couch.

In spite of three treatments for a melanoma in his mouth - including surgery to remove the growth and two rounds of injections similar to what humans use to kill cancer - the Salt Lake City Police Department's favorite bloodhound, J.J., remains in action.

J.J. has a career total of 233 apprehensions, the most recent of which came Friday night when officers were called to chase a suspect wanted for aggravated assault.

The suspect rammed an occupied truck twice with his Ford Bronco around 11:47 a.m. and then fled the scene on foot near 200 North and Redwood Road, police said. J.J. quickly found the suspect hiding behind a Dumpster.

"That's what J.J. lives for," said Sgt. Chris Ward, who oversees the department's K-9 charges. "That's what makes him happiest."

Having bounced back quickly from the last round of injections, J.J. worked three out of four days last week, Ward said. The 9-year-old bloodhound has been traveling to New York every other week for the cancer treatment with his handler, Officer Mike Serio, said Ward. J.J. is one of six dogs - four German shepherds and two bloodhounds - Salt Lake City police officers use to track and apprehend suspects, Ward said.

Unlike other dogs in the department, which are owned by the city, J.J. is a contract worker who is hired out by Serio for his services to Salt Lake City police. Serio is responsible for J.J.'s medical costs, which are estimated to exceed $13,000, Ward said.

Media reports of J.J.'s illness have brought a slew of unsolicited donations on the bloodhound's behalf, said Ward.

"Mike is going to pay for [the treatment] regardless but donations have been coming from as far away as Virginia, Montana and all across the state of Utah," said the sergeant.

J.J. is the senior member of his squad, Ward said, and regularly deployed to sniff out a fleeing suspect.

"We're all really pulling for him to get back in [regular] service," Ward said.

Those wishing to make a donation to help defray J.J.'s medical costs can contact Salt Lake City police at 801-799-3000.

Copyright 2007 The Salt Lake Tribune
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