Brashinger: Foster dog Red joins New Lenox Fire Protection District
By Ginger Brashinger Citizen Journalistfirstname.lastname@example.org June 7, 2012 2:00PM
Shelley Hallach of the New Lenox Community Emergency Response Team gives Red a dog treat at the Stone City Kennel Club’s pet emergency training seminar. | Supplied Photo
Updated: July 11, 2012 6:05AM
The New Lenox Fire Protection District acquired a secret weapon in its quest for community safety and security.
Red, a 2-year-old purebred bloodhound who recently was certified by the National Police Bloodhound Association, is going to be very useful in tracking down missing persons for any fire or police district that may have a need.
Having one of only three certified bloodhounds working in a fire department puts the New Lenox Fire District in a fairly elite category, but that’s not why they got Red.
It all came about because “the guys were bugging” fire chief John Mead for a dog at Station 4, Mead said.
“They wanted a dog, and I thought it should be fully productive,” Mead said. “It would have to have a good temperament and be good-natured around kids.”
Mead had one more requirement.
“Let’s give a dog a home rather than go buy one,” Mead said. “We’re all big advocates for that here.”
When Kym Johnson of Chicagoland Dog Rescue discovered that the fire district was looking for a working dog, she contacted them about Red, a foster dog she was caring for through the rescue. That was in July 2011.
After months of training with the Cook County Police Department and the Joliet Police Department, Red proved not only to have a good temperament around people, but he also showed he had the right stuff to be a search-and-rescue dog.
Firefighter/paramedic and chief handler Greg Gaj said within a month of the department getting Red, they knew he was ready to learn.
“In September, we looked for motivation levels, and he was picking it up quickly,” Gaj said. “By May, we were going into New York thinking we had a pretty good shot at (certification).”
For one week in May, Red attended certification training at the National Police Bloodhound Association in Salamanac, N.Y.
“He did excellent,” Gaj said.
Gaj, firefighter and EMT Frank Hasik, and firefighter and EMT basic Tony Palkovitz also will be working with Red, who already has had two missing person assignments.
As excited as everyone else seems to be about Red, the 135-pound dog takes it all in stride — unless there are treats involved.
“He’s just such a mellow, awesome dog,” Gaj said.
He said Red has been great with kids when attending school functions and public education events. Gaj said Red likely will attend some of the Lincoln-Way Central football games in the fall. No doubt he will be the center of attention.
Does Red get to go on fire calls? Gaj said that’s not Red’s purpose, so when the alarm rings, Red goes into his cage and waits there until the firefighters return.
“Station 4 is his home,” Gaj said about the dog that almost didn’t have a home. “We expect to get about eight to 10 years of service from him.”
After that, Gaj said Red most likely will live with someone from the station.
Gaj said the community has been very generous in helping the fire district support Red through fundraisers and donations.
“Red is going to be a great asset,” Gaj said. “We are very appreciative of the community support.”
If you would like to donate to the care and feeding of a dog that may someday be the difference between life and death for you or someone you know, call the New Lenox Fire Protection District at (815) 463-4500.