Ask most dog owners about their favorite memory with their pet, and chances are they will recount tales of sunlit walks or trips to the lake or time spent nestled together in the living room.
Ask Michael Serio the same question, and he talks about the time his dog tracked down a violent criminal wanted for stabbing a Smiths clerk with a hunting knife for 2½ miles at 3 a.m. in the numbing cold while battling a cancerous tumor in his 10-year-old chest.
Suffice it to say, JJ the police bloodhound was not your average dog.
The floppy-eared canine filled many roles. He was a partner and best friend to Serio, a menace to criminals, a pioneer for Utah bloodhounds and an unapologetic slobber-machine to all. Now, he is the protagonist of the recently released Bloodhound in Blue: The True Tales of Police Dog JJ and His Two-Legged Partner.
The book, written by Adam David Russ, tells the story of JJ and Serio, who teamed up to catch 271 criminals in nine years of service together. The pair also inadvertently changed the way Utah police units operate, and their legacy extends throughout much of the western United States.
When Serio began training JJ as a puppy, there were few police bloodhounds in the West and none in Utah. The stigma was that these goofy-looking hounds, with their awkward gait and unaggressive tendencies, were useless compared to the vicious German shepherds typically employed by K9 squads. But despite doubt from his superiors and tension among his fellow officers, Serio helped turn JJ into one of the Salt Lake City Police Department's most valuable assets.
With JJ's ability to sniff out suspects and Serio's apprehension skills, the duo caught murderers, rapists, and drug dealers, often tracking them over fences and through crowded city blocks and dense forests. Unlike German shepherds, who often send suspects to the hospital with bite wounds, JJ would only locate the people in question. It was up to the humans to restrain the suspects.
Serio and JJ's efforts led to the arrest of Utah's Most Wanted criminal in 2004, and the duo also found a few missing children during their time. In 2008, Serio and JJ were named the Salt Lake City Officers of the Year.
JJ lost his bout with cancer that same year, but thanks to his success, there are now about 10 police bloodhounds in the Salt Lake Valley area. However, none of them have the unique combination of skill and personality that JJ brought to the force.
"At the end of a track, he'd bay at the guy and I'd give him a treat, and then he'd just bay and bay at me, just howl directly at me to show how proud he was of what he accomplished," Serio said in a recent interview with The Salt Lake Tribune. "He did it for himself because of his instinctual nature, but he also liked to show off and say 'Hey Dad, look what I did.'"
Bloodhound in Blue is on sale now. Russ, Serio and his new bloodhound Junior will make an appearance at The King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City on Saturday.
"Bloodhound in Blue: The True Tales of Police Dog JJ and His Two-Legged Partner."
Adam David Russ
Pages • 273
Cost • $24.95