Gurnee police welcome dogs Hawk, Leo to force
Gurnee police welcomed two highly-trained German shepherds to their ranks -- and thanked the schoolchildren who helped name them -- during a ceremony this week at village hall.
Hawk, who is partnered with Officer Travis Hitzelburger, and Leo, teaming with Officer Tom Yencich, posed for pictures Monday with sixth-grade Woodland Middle School student Ivy Lindstrom and sixth-grade Viking School student Vyncen Bolados at village hall.
Lindstrom submitted the name Hawk, Bolados submitted the name Leo, and hundreds of other children submitted potential names in a contest run by the village this spring. Officer Shawn Gaylor said the initial list was narrowed by police department members each selecting their favorite name. That pared-down selection went to the dog's human partners and they, with the help of their families, picked the name they felt best matched the dog.
Hitzelburger said he chose Hawk because his daughter noticed the dog had a little patch of white on his chest, like some hawks.
"He's a beast-in-training," Hitzelburger said "He's really obedient, but his favorite game is biting and looking for drugs and basically anything that is high-energy."
Hitzelburger joked that Hawk, born 16 months ago in South suburban Lynwood, already has eaten up their squad car twice.
Hawk and Leo went through 4½ months of training at TOPS, a family-owned training business in Grayslake, before meeting their human partners, and then two months of training with them.
Yencich said he initially was paired with another dog, but it became clear through training that it didn't have the drive for police work. So Yencich instead was paired with Leo, who was born 13 months ago in Morris.
"He's got the drive," Yencich said.
Hawk and Leo's predecessors were Bear and Hunter, who both retired along with their human partners last year.
Gaylor said the department received a $25,000 donation from Six Flags Great America and Gurnee Mills to help pay for the dogs' training.
Police Chief Brian Smith said the department had plaques made to thank the Gurnee landmarks for their generosity.
"We were very fortunate to have this opportunity," Smith said. "The donation was necessary to purchase the dogs this year."