Arlington Heights names new police dog in honor of fallen cop

  • Arlington Heights Police Officer Alan J. Vargo

    Arlington Heights Police Officer Alan J. Vargo

Updated 3/29/2018 5:56 PM

Arlington Heights has named its new police dog in tribute to one of the police department's fallen officers.

Vargo, a 1½-year-old Belgian Malinois, started working the department's afternoon shift this month with handler Officer Ryan Butcher.


Butcher asked the family of Alan J. Vargo, who was killed in the line of duty in 1976, if he could name the officer's honor.

"The family loved the idea," said Sgt. Jim McGrath, who oversees the police dog program.

Alan Vargo's widow now lives out of state, but is expected to return soon to meet the dog. Family members have attended the department's annual ceremony to honor fallen officers across the nation, and many were there in 2006 for a graveside ceremony at St. Michael Cemetery in Palatine on the 30th anniversary of the officer's death.

Village officials also have named a street near Lake Arlington after the fallen officer.

The 24-year-old cop was directing traffic around an accident at Arlington Heights Road and Olive Street about 2 a.m. July 18, 1976, when he was struck and killed by a drunken driver.

Vargo was the third Arlington Heights officer to die in the line of duty. Herman Gaare was killed in 1927 and Fred J. Koerber died in 1924; both were riding motorcycles on Northwest Highway when they were killed.

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Police dog Vargo completed his training in February at Vohne Liche Kennels in Denver, Indiana. It was there that he formally began training under his new name.

The dog heeds commands in Dutch. That meant Officer Butcher had to learn about 10 words in Dutch to communicate with his new crime-fighting partner, McGrath says.

Vargo the dog is "dual-purpose," with the ability to track drugs and suspects, he said.

Police dog Vargo is replacing Brit, a 2½-year-old Belgian Malinois/German shepherd mix, that was announced as the department's new canine officer in October. McGrath said Brit wasn't able to complete the training program or meet the needs of the department, leading to the selection of a new dog.

About a year ago, 13-year-old police dog Layka died a month after retiring due to an inoperable brain tumor.

With Vargo, the department now has three dogs on the force -- one for each shift.

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