LIBERTYVILLE – Man’s best friend was honored Wednesday morning at the unveiling of the Northern Illinois Police K-9 Memorial.
Fallen police dogs from the region were remembered with applause by hundreds of law enforcement officers and their families and the barks of active K-9s.
The memorial at Highland Memorial Park in Libertyville celebrated 79 police dogs that have died over the years. It features a life-size statue of a handler with a K-9 and tiles engraved with the names of dogs, their handlers and when they served.
“These are our superheroes,” McHenry County Undersheriff Andrew Zinke, a former K-9 officer, said of the dogs. “Law enforcement officers respect them, criminals fear them, and citizens adore them.”
Lake County sheriff’s Deputy Anthony Fanella and his sister, Traci Sikorski, led the effort to create the memorial, which cost about $57,500.
“These guys work with these dogs every day,” Sikorski said. “These are officers just like humans, and it’s important that they are not forgotten.”
Ron Lyons, Crystal Lake Park District police chief, agreed.
“Instead of living a typical dog’s life, they work, but don’t get any praise other than from their handler,” he said. “This is a great way to honor them.”
During more than 12 years as a K-9 officer, Fanella has worked with three partners: Sinbad, Sampson and Thor. Sinbad died of heatstroke during a training exercise in June 2004.
Memorializing his one-time best friend and partner of more than three years has been a mission ever since.
Sikorski and Fanella teamed up with Paula Rothacker, owner of TOPS Kennels in Grayslake, and in January 2011 their group of memorial seekers was granted nonprofit status. It raised more than $63,000, built the memorial with private donations, and continues to accept donations for an annual ceremony in which police dogs will be added to the memorial.
There is no charge to the handler or law enforcement agency to include a K-9 in the memorial.
Police dogs honored from McHenry County were Thor and Duke of the Algonquin Police Department; Jake, Torro and Knight of the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office; Chief and Kasey of the Crystal Lake Park District Police; Esta of the McHenry Police Department; and Mike of the Richmond Police Department.
Police dogs honored from Lake County were Lance, Milo, Falco, Sinbad, Solo, Riggs and Granger of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office; Mickey of the Waukegan Police Department; Bart and Magnum of the Highland Park Police Department; Radar of the Gurnee Police Department; Storm and Bullet of the Vernon Hills Police Department; Zanto of the North Chicago Police Department; and Highway of the Round Lake Police Department.
For information or to make a donation, visit www.policek9memorial.org.