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Home > Press Page

Sunday, January 25, 2009 — A suicidal man who was submerged in a south suburban forest preserve river was located and rescued by a member of the Cook County Sheriff’s Department’s K9 Unit, Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced Monday.

            Dart detailed the rescue at a press conference, where he also introduced the newest member of the Sheriff’s K9 unit, a pit bull rescued from a local shelter last year.

Sheriff Tom Dart, Melanie, Sheriffs Police Officer Jim Pacetti The river rescue was carried out by a 1-1/2 year-old bloodhound, Melanie, and her partner, Sheriff’s Police Officer Jim Pacetti. On Jan. 18, Sheriff’s officers responded to a call of a despondent man who had told his parents he was going to kill himself. Police got the call around 5 p.m. and traced his cell phone to the area of a forest preserve near 87th Street and LaGrange Road in unincorporated Lyons Township, but were unable to locate the 36-year-old man. Melanie was called in around 8 p.m.

MelanieMelanie sniffed the man’s pillowcase, then led officers into the woods. She followed a trail for ¼ mile before venturing west for 300 yards. She then turned and went 250 yards north and began pulling harder toward the east. She led officers 50 more yards, where they found the man semi-conscious and half-submerged in water around 9:30 p.m. Temperatures were around 5 degrees and the man was not wearing shoes and couldn’t move until police arrived.

            Melanie became a member of the Sheriff’s Department last year, thanks to a donation by 832 K9’s Deputy Dogs, a not-for-profit group based in Florida. Of the 17 dogs in the Sheriff’s K9 Unit, she is the only dog specifically trained to search for missing people.

            “Melanie’s efforts show the important role these dogs play as vital members of our department,” Dart said. “She was able to lead our officers far into the woods to find a man who might have frozen to death without her work.”

Elliott NessAlso Monday, Dart introduced Elliott Ness, a 4-year-old pit bull rescued from a Burr Ridge shelter last year. The dog is the county’s first dog trained to locate cadavers.

The Sheriff’s Department was linked to Elliott thanks to the efforts of Burr Ridge-based Angel 4 Cause Rescue. Elliott was rescued from an abusive environment and still shows signs of hesitancy, but has quickly taken to cadaver work. Partnered with Sheriff’s Police Officer Debbie Thedos, Elliott was certified as a cadaver dog by the North American and Illinois Police Work Dog Associations after just three months of training.

            Dart was joined at the press conference by dog behavior expert and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist/radio host Steve Dale, who discussed the ways pit bulls and other “bully breeds” can be successfully saved and rehabilitated. Dale hosts the Pet Central radio show every Sunday night on WGN-AM (720) and also writes a nationally syndicated newspaper column, while also operating his website,

            “So many people have misconceptions about pit bulls and similar dogs and because of that, many never get adopted from shelters,” Dart said. “Many of these dogs, like Elliott, can be saved and worked with to lead happy, healthy, productive lives.”

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