The City of Naperville is mourning the loss of one of its finest. Canine police officer Sabek, a nine-year veteran of the force, was put to sleep two weeks ago following a fast-progressing terminal illness.
Sabek was a pure-blooded German shepherd who was a partner with Chris Sherwin, a 13-year Naperville police officer.
"He loved what he was doing, right until the day he died," Sherwin said.
Sherwin met his canine when Sabek was just two years old.
"He was brought here from Hungary, and we were at a four-week training school in Pennsylvania," he said. "The dog knows what he's doing, and the training is mostly to teach the handler what to do."
Sherwin described their first year together on the beat as both scary and exciting.
"You've got this animal, and you're trying to figure out what he's trying to tell you, without words," said Sherwin. "And there's a lot of people who are counting on you to find the bad guys or find the dope, and keep the police officer safe. It's a huge responsibility."
One of Sabek's first police calls happened when a 2-year-old child with Down syndrome had wandered away from home.
"We did what they call a reverse track," Sherwin said. "So we started from the girl and Sabek tracked back and located her house. We found the parents and it was a happy ending."
After a couple more years on the job together, Sherwin said he and his dog formed an inseparable bond.
In October 2012, Sabek was called to a traffic stop involving a suspicious pickup truck. Sabek reacted immediately, Sherwin said.
"It turned out to be the largest methamphetamine bust in DuPage County," Sherwin said.
Naperville officers who handle canines take their partners home, although technically, the city owns the dog.
The Sherwin household also includes another dog that is a Shih Tzu and Poodle mix, commonly known as a Shih-Poo.
"We'd be outside and the little guy would bark at some people and then run and hide behind the big guy," said Sherwin. "It was pretty entertaining to watch."
As Sabek got older, Sherwin said he noticed over the last couple months his dog started becoming incontinent, "and it got worse at a pretty fast pace."
On Feb. 13, Sabek was diagnosed with canine degenerative myelopathy, an incurable disease of the spinal cord. He was retired from the police force and put to sleep on Feb. 25. Sabek was 11.
The department honored their fallen officer at a memorial service March 11.
"The ceremony was great," Sherwin said. "The chief came as well as a lot of other people I work with. Everybody loved Sabek and he was a friend to everyone."
Sherwin said Sabek loved his job "because he wanted to please his partner, but ultimately they do it because it's their natural instinct and drive that they have. The German shepherd police dog is usually an alpha male."
If the department offers him another chance to be paired with a canine officer, Sherwin said he would accept the opportunity.