One of Elgin's three police dogs died of cancer last week, the first dog to die while still on duty in the city, his handler said.
Eight-year-old Keiser was diagnosed with cancer about two months ago, when his handler, officer John Slocum, first noticed the German shepherd had become lethargic.
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Keiser had surgery and went back to duty, but he collapsed while on routine patrol July 5, Slocum said. He was euthanized at Dundee Animal Hospital in East Dundee.
"He was an extremely efficient, very high-drive, phenomenal police service dog, as well as a good friend and partner to me," Slocum said. "He was unbelievable. His drive was through the roof."
Keiser was a dual-purpose dog, meaning his duties included both patrol and narcotics detection.
"He lived to work. All he wanted to do is work," said Slocum, who was paired with Keiser in 2007.
A few years ago, Keiser and another police dog saved a suicidal man's life. Keiser followed the man's scent and found him clinging to a tree with a rope around his neck, Slocum said. Police were able to help the man and bring him down safely, he said.
Keiser's other notable achievements include recovering $62,000 in cash and finding a 6-pound package of marijuana vacuum-sealed and packed in drier sheets.
Police dogs live with their handlers and usually retire at about age 10, Slocum said. All previous Elgin police dogs reached retirement, including Slocum's two previous K-9 partners.
Keiser loved to play with hard rubber balls that he routinely chewed to pieces. He also loved milk bones, but work was his passion, Slocum said.
Losing Keiser was emotional for Slocum's family, he said. "He was the family dog."
Elgin police will determine whether to get another dog, Slocum said. The initial cost, including training, is about $15,000; the weekly maintenance training cost is minimal, he said.
Meanwhile, the department is planning to create a memorial in its lobby to honor all service dogs that have worked in Elgin.
"It's a lot of that we ask of them. It's a lot they give us," he said. "(Keiser) served the city well. He'll be missed."