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Dax, Lake County, Illinois Sheriff's K-9 officer, dies 2 days after retirement

Dax, beloved Lake Co. K-9, dies days after retirement
Dax, beloved Lake Co. K-9, dies days after retirement 00:24

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (CBS) -- Dax, the Lake County, Illinois Sheriff's crime-fighting K-9 officer, died Friday morning.

On March 3, Dax was injured helping take down a wanted person fleeing from a stolen car. He suffered injuries to his neck and spine, which caused temporary paralysis to his hindquarters, the sheriff's office said.

Dax was diagnosed with Intervertebral Disc Disease.

Lake Co. K-9 Dax dies days after retirement 00:33

About two weeks after Dax suffered the injury, the sheriff's office showed Dax walking on a treadmill and said he had regained some mobility.

But Dax's veterinarians determined he could not return to active duty, and he retired just this past Wednesday. A large crowd showed up for his retirement ceremony.

Two days later, Dax died. His handler, Deputy John Forlenza, was left with no choice but to say goodbye to Dax, according to a statement from the sheriff's office.

"Deputy Forlenza ensured K9 Dax had the best treatment and best physical therapy available. While we initially saw improvements, there were also major setbacks. Unfortunately, even given everything possible, K9 Dax's health continued deteriorating and he was in pain. Deputy Forlenza had to make a very difficult decision to do what was in the best interest of his K9 partner. This morning, K9 Dax went to the Lake Michigan beach - his favorite spot to unwind, and spent a lot of time with Deputy Forlenza. After their time together, K9 Dax was humanly euthanized."


Dax was a German shepherd who joined the Lake County Sheriff's Department at 13 months old in 2015.

The sheriff's office says Dax located more than 400 missing endangered people or fleeing felons, seized hundreds of kilos of illegal drugs, and found dozens of guns.

Dax tracked hundreds of missing people and wanted suspects. CBS 2 has shown how Dax and Forlenza have worked together on hundreds of cases in the past, including a robbery in which a suspect punched Dax.

Forlenza said Wednesday that he was thinking about getting another police dog, but he knows it won't fill Dax's paws.

"K9 Dax will always hold a special place in our hearts, and we are incredibly saddened by his passing," Lake County Sheriff John Idleburg said in a news release. "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."

Police said the suspect in the case in which Dax was injured, a 16-year-old from Zion, has charges pending against him in Wisconsin and Illinois. 

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