K9 Dax retires after 9 years at Lake County Sheriff’s Department: 'Your official request to retire is granted'

Perhaps the country’s most famous and legendary police dog is hanging up his leash. 

K9 Dax has captured dozens of criminals and located and rescued hundreds of people during his nine years as a member of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department.

But after a serious injury while apprehending a suspect last month, the Hall of Fame police dog got a Hall of Fame sendoff Wednesday. 

"You served our community with pride and distinction. Your official request to retire is granted," said Lake County Sheriff’s Deputy John Forlenza, who is Dax’s handler.

A huge retirement ceremony and party was held outside the Lake County Sheriff's substation in Libertyville, to say goodbye and thank you to perhaps the department’s most famous member, K9 Dax. 

"When they run towards the danger, they often have a canine like Dax with them. That is unbelievable," said Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart. "Dax, thank you for running alongside them. Thank you for making all of us safer."

Dax is a German Shepherd who joined the sheriff’s department at 13 months old in 2015. To say his career since then is remarkable is an understatement. 

He has located and apprehended dozens of fleeing felons, seized hundreds of kilos of illegal drugs and found scores of discarded firearms.

He’s also won multiple regional and national police dog competitions.

But it’s Dax’s amazing ability to find people in peril that’s made him a hero. 

"He’s found over 400 missing endangered people, from children to adults," said Christopher Covelli, Deputy Chief of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department. "And without a doubt, that is 400 lives saved. That’s huge, that really is incredible."

There was cake, pictures and scores of people from Lake County gathering to say thanks. As well as a dozen police dogs from surrounding communities.

Cristina McHugh of Gurnee brought her four children, all dressed in police canine T-shirts. 

"We’ve been following Dax for years. And we actually love him so much that we bought a German Shepherd of our own," said McHugh.

Even though Dax is retiring, his handler Forlenza says he may still be looking for another police dog. 

"I think it would be a disservice to him, with all we’ve accomplished, and what I’ve learned not to continue that. And hopefully advance that. I think it would add to his legacy," said Forlenza.

But this is a forced retirement. Dax could’ve worked for another year but suffered neck and back injuries causing partial paralysis in early March while tracking down a car theft suspect near Zion.

Forlenza says Dax will now live out his days in retirement as the family dog. 

"In his case, it’s not the worst way to go out. He apprehended the individual, took them into custody. Deputies weren’t hurt, which is part of his job. He made it through that. He went out doing what he loves," said Forlenza.

And because of Dax’s success, the Lake County Sheriff’s Department has greatly expanded its canine unit with a total of 10 police dogs.