Unlatching the car door handle, Maxx, a German shepherd, let himself into the police car to sit alongside his partner of more than seven years, Sgt. John Combs. He was ready to begin his afternoon shift.
Although the 9-year-old dog from the Wauconda Police Department -- a three-time first-place Canine Olympics winner -- is famous for his tricks, he does a lot more than open car doors and climb ladders.
This year, Maxx is being nationally recognized for his police work, as a candidate for the American Humane Association's Hero Dog Award, law enforcement category.
"It's all one big surprise," said Combs, whose sister nominated the dog without his knowledge.
Out of hundreds of candidates, Maxx was chosen as a finalist for his work with Wauconda and other northern Illinois agencies, detecting narcotics, tracking area searches, helping to find missing suspects and lost children and locating hidden weapons and money.
"He's done a fantastic job for the community and the village," Combs said. "He's caught a countless amount of bad guys and de-escalated a lot of situations that could have caused injury to civilians and officers as well."
Maxx's most recent adventure involved chasing and catching a man who fled the scene of a motorcycle accident on Route 12. The man, who had warrants out for his arrest, was traveling 120 mph on his motorcycle and crashed into another motorcycle with two people on it.
Brian Linning, Wauconda resident and owner of Bark 'N' Town, 27607 W. Brandenburg Road, has started a campaign using posters, social media networks and his dog business to help get votes in the Hero Dog Award program.
"He's my hometown dog, I'm stepping up for him," Linning said.
The 2012 Hero Dog Award winner will be chosen by the public, who can vote through the American Humane Association's website until June 30. Since April, more than 156,800 votes have been cast. Maxx is currently in seventh place.
The winner will travel to Los Angeles for a special event. In addition to paid travel expenses and a video production of the dog, the first-place winner will receive $10,000 for their charity sponsor.
Mark Stubis, chief communications officer for the American Humane Association, said a strong candidate in the law enforcement category has an outstanding history of service, exceptional bravery and unique results.
"Regardless of who wins, we strongly believe that all the nominees are deserving of the name 'hero,'" he said.